If Humans Evolve Into High-Tech Coral Fish, This Is Where We’ll Live

The nonLin/Lin Pavilion by Marc Fornes just happens to be constructed like a huge piece of coral.

It may look like the secret underwater lair for the god Neptune, but the white aluminum structure named nonLin/Lin Pavilion gets its trippy curves and tubular arms from math, pure math. The code-generated creature was calculated by Marc Fornes of THEVERYMANY and is on permanent display at the FRAC Center in Orleans, France.


The 1875-square-foot form itself was created with what Fornes calls “text based morphologies,” using algorithmic data sets, but mostly written as text files in computer languages like Python. The unique shape explores the non-linear concepts of “split” and “recombination,” evidenced in the Y-shaped branches and double-back arcs, and the way that the surface reunites to create those little donut-like holes and tubes. The goal was to have the code create as many curves as possible, says Fornes. “The stiffness of the structure is achieved through custom protocols (codes) of surface relaxation (forcing any point on the surface to be under tension) in order to get strength through maximum amount of double curvature.”

Manufacturing the piece was another geometric puzzle. Fornes says to think of the computational generators as “agents” who are walking on the piece’s surface as it constructs, making decisions to mediate the push-and-pull of the material that will make the best curves, while checking with the paths of their neighbors. “Whenever the ‘agent’ can not move forward anymore, its path gets formalized into a stripe, including all all the necessary assembly details and text/information require to put it back together in the physical world,” says Fornes. “Each computationally generated stripe is unique and with a very specific position onto the structure.” These “stripes” were then digitally unrolled and placed onto standard flat sheets of aluminum, where they were finally perforated and cut.

Almost 7,000 of those “stripes” secured with 75,000 white aluminum rivets make up the entire sculpture, yet the installation can be broken down into 40 pieces which can be easily reassembled. Along the entire surface, 155,000 asterik-shaped perforations of various size dot the structure, adding to the permeability and lightness of the piece. Despite its delicate appearance, Fornes says it’s surprisingly strong, and can be easily sat or hung on (not that he wants people to do that).

While the audience seems to assign all sorts of relationships to nature, seeing everything from lilies to seaweed in the forms, Fornes says he didn’t look at the natural world as the model — it just happens that many of these processes are the same way nature does it. “Many of those computation strategies or custom geometrical protocols are similar in their principle to the morphogenesis process of natural forms,” he says. “Even though we are in no way looking at nature in term of source of inspiration, the resultant morphologies of our protocols or final projects are often associated to many comparisons such as coral and flowers.”

[Photos by Francois Lauginie]

About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato.