Flatland: Romance of Many Dimensions

by Casey Hughes (MArch ’11)

Flatland is an installation that forms a canopy over the south balconies of Gund Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Design. Designed by Casey Hughes and installed in collaboration with Hiroshi Jacobs (MDes ’11), the concept was developed for a design competition initiated by the Harvard Graduate School of Design Student Forum and Building Services.

Flatland is made up of 10,000 feet of custom-made 1/8-inch-diameter red and blue bungee cord, fixed in place by more than 1,000 hardware connections. Sixty individual lines emerge from the entrance of Gund Hall on Cambridge Street and traverse the south facade of the building, suggesting two continuous doubly ruled hyperbolic paraboloid surfaces. This highly rational geometry creates Flatlands’ distinctive whipped, saddle-like spaces.

Flatland studies the relationship between dimensionality and flatness by exploring how a one-dimensional line can at once produce a surface and a volume. The design began with the interest of developing a lightweight system that is economical and durable while having a large spatial impact. This led to Flatland, a system where, with mathematical efficiency, one-dimensional lines produce complex spaces with a wide range of scale and enclosure.

The title of the installation is based on Edwin Abbot Abbot’s 1884 novel Flatland, about a fictional two-dimensional world inhabited by geometric figures. The plot follows the protagonist, a square, who discovers “the mysteries of three dimensions” and returns to the Flatland to share it with others.