The Fitful Flog

May 31, 2007

The Gothic Surface

Gothic Surface

Gothic Surface No. 9 Crease Pattern

When I was a tech support geek, the kid who sat next to me used to wear a t-shirt that said, “I’m So Gothic I Don’t Have a Shadow.” Which was pretty close to true. He was a skinny little guy and he liked to sit under his desk. Sometimes, I’d turn around to ask a question and all I’d see was the headphone cord crossing the desk. Meanwhile, I’d hear his voice, going on and on about pulling DUN and rebooting and other dreary things.

Me, I always found the adoption of the term, “Gothic,” by the young, pasty and disaffected slightly risible. (It is to riz.) To my mind, the rise of the Gothic style punched great big holes in those heavy church walls and covered them with vast, intricate windows. The amount of light in a Gothic cathedral is not to be compared to that in a Romanesque cathedral. Certainly, it would be no hangout for these charming little vampires.

You know who invented Gothic architecture? No, no one really does. There are some names here and there, but it was a delightfully ad hoc kind of process. One can imagine Mickey Rooney in a cowl, brightly exclaiming, “C’mon, gang — let’s put up a cathedral! My dad has a stone and Polly’s dad has a nice chisel we could use.” And it kind of went from there. I’ve been reading The Engineering of Medieval Cathedrals, put together by Lynn T. Courtenay, and parts of it read that way. The methods they developed make the Renaissance look like an afterthought. I particularly admire what they did with circle arcs. They weren’t using origami methods, but they could have.

The above photo is a shout-out to Jakob Steiner and his Roman surface. When I make it, it comes out with nice pointy bits which resonate well with the Low Gothic sensibilities I grew up with.

The origami parts:

  • It involves dividing the circle into ninths, pie-wise. There’s no elegant way to do that (yet), so I divide by three and then do an overlap thing to get ninths.
  • The photo is a mock-up. The crease pattern is from a different approach, one where the corner is in the middle.
  • It looks like three circle arcs — it’s actually six.
  • Four circles should yield a Gothic surface.
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