Product Design IV // Recess Week

Form exploration
Fiona x Shanelle

Location: Hall 7

This week we decided to do a recce at Hall 7, where the Pangolin once appeared. We wanted to go out and get a rough idea of where exactly we could place our sculpture in hall 7, how big would the dimension of the sculpture be and what kind of function could the sculpture serve as other than just being a decorative art piece.


(Without the modules yet, just the form. Modules will be added on to flow along the overall form.)

Wrapping around the tree. 

We were intending for the tail of sculpture to be a communal bench which extends out to be a large sculptural art piece around the tree. 

Other possibilities.

Moving forward

After consultation, we decided on the idea of the sculpture wrapping around the tree. Next, we will be making the models and deciding on the choice of material afterward. Some possibility to add on would be incorporating solar panels on the modular scales such that the sculpture could light up at night. 

Product Design IV // Week 7

Fiona x Shanelle

Last session’s feedback:

  • Choose a direction.
  • Overall form not conveyed.
  • Do not use any difficult materials.
  • Be specific about the dimensions, location, the reason behind the location, how people interact with it.
  • Find out where was the Pangolin found and place the sculpture there.

Our reflection:

  • Going towards direction 1 is boring as it is no longer about making an art sculpture. We realized plants are everywhere in school and there is no point for us to add more. People will probably think that oh, it’s just another shade. We thought that direction 2 has more potential for us to work on. 
  • Here’s recap of direction 2, a domino effect that creates a closing movement when it rains (mimicking the pangolin scales working as a whole):

Where did the Pangolin appear?

NTU Hall 7 residential

Overall Form


Explanations below.


Initial trial #1

Aim: To play with the weight difference in each module to create a default/balanced position.
(With the latch on segment having a greater volume/weight than the beak.)

The objective of trial: To identify if the difference in weight running throughout the module causes the module to rebound and moves back to its original position after the contact. 

Findings: It is difficult to control and calculate such that the weight on both sides is the same and that the module will return to its default position when the rain stops. Hence, we figured that we could try working with an elasticity mechanism.

Initial trial #2

Aim: To play with the elasticity to create a rebound.  

The objective of trial: To identify which way of constructing the elasticity is more effective to create a rebound.

Findings: Elasticity works. The modules bounces back to its default position after contact. The position of how we position the elasticity is, however, crucial as we figured that the method affects the strength of the rebound.

Product Design IV // Week 6

Fiona x Shanelle

Feedbacks gathered the last session:

  • What is the overall form of the structure? Shade, trellis and pangolin-inspired form, are all three combining well? Which one is more conceptually relevant, more representative of NTU, more promising of good results?
  • A function is defined by its creator and you define it. The function doesn’t necessarily have to be solely functional and practical. For instance, the main purpose of a vase isn’t to hold flowers but to serve as a decorative piece.
  • Focus on bringing out the essence of the pangolin if that’s what you all would like to remind people of, that pangolin resides here. For instance, translating the adaptability characteristic of the pangolin scales into a sculpture, using a singular modular to create an organic form.

Questions we asked ourselves:

  • Perhaps we could look into unique key characteristics of pangolin to bring out the essence of pangolin? (Based on the feedback previously, modular repetitive structures are seen everywhere in nature organisms so what’s so unique only to pangolin itself?)
  • How can we integrate nature? Perhaps such that when a natural phenomenon meets the man-made structure (our sculpture) it will create a movement that mimics the adaptability nature of the pangolin scales when in an encounter with their predators. (We are in the midst of researching on materials that react to nature. By nature, we meant water, heat, light or touch etc.)

More Design references
{Note: References might not be directly related to what we plan to do}

Water Pachinko – Kenya Hara

Designed by Japanese designer, Kenya Hara, these rolling water droplets on the table works like Japanese pinball, also known as pachinko.The spherical water droplets silently navigate their way down the complex white paper structure coated with super-hydrophobic substances.The numerous water droplets may divide at one point, unite at another or fall into the hole, thereby creating a new experience and excitement for the senses. 

Water Reactive Architectural Surface – Chao Chen

Designed by Royal College of Art design student, Chao Chen, this wood laminate material bends in response to the humidity in the atmosphere, rain, and moisture. This biomimetic material is able to change its shape without using any electric system or mechanical structure. The individual tiles curl and open in dry weather to let the light and breezes in and flatten out when it rains to protect the occupants. 


Direction 1 

A quick recap of our previous post, we wanted to design a sculpture that functions as both a trellis and shade, balancing the positive and negative space with a suitable modular structure. The diagram below shows one of our form explorations for our sculpture. The skeleton structure is built using a singular module that eventually forms to bend in an organic shape. With this characteristic of adaptability, the sculpture could be placed anywhere in school as it can be bent and adjusted according to the surroundings.

Direction 2 

What are other ways to show the relationship between nature and man-made structure? Keeping in mind that nature ain’t just greeneries around us but climate, humidity and weather such as sunlight and rain are considered as nature as well.

When in contact with man-made structure, can a natural phenomenon create an interaction that mimics the curling up dynamism of a pangolin?

As rain droplets falls on the structure, the weight of the droplets orientate the module, the droplet slides down to one end and landed on the next module right below, slowly descending and making its way down. The interaction between the rain and each piece of modules together formed a reaction in response to intensity of the downpour – showing progression of the rain.

Additionally, the structure comes with an embedded stopper in the supporting rib to prevent the modules from rotating in another direction. Each module are arranged in a descending manner such to control the flow of the water to reflect the integrated and collective effort of each module contributing to the reaction in response to the rain droplets.

Other possible Direction 

What about the interaction of material and nature?

As inspired by how pangolin curls up when faced with threat, 

We have been looking into other possible methods of creating the rolling and unrolling dynamics through the interaction of material and nature. – Of how material behaves when interacted with nature. We are reminded of how paper curls up due to the swelling when it comes in contact of water and went into researching more about it.

We came across an article that shares:

“how tracing paper curls up when placed on the surface of the water. Over time, the swelling front of the paper that comes in contact with water propagates through the thickness of the paper, the paper gradually uncurls itself and eventually straightens out.”

We gave it a try! We felt that the drawback in regards to paper was however the durability and maintenance of it, be it for wet/dry conditions. And the paper doesn’t curls back when it dry unless its fully drenched.

We further researched into other materials and found something interesting that we could possibility look into! All of us are aware that a certain kind and thickness of metal/wood reacts to climate conditions. While researching, we came across the possibilities of using thermal expansion to create interactions.

Such as Bimetal aka thermostatic metal. So,what’s a bimetal?

“Bimetals are hence layered metallic composites, most common in the form of strips or sheets that consist of at least two tightly bonded components with differing thermal expansion rates.”

“Since, when heated, one layer expands more than the other the flat strip is forced to bend one way, and towards the opposite direction when cooled back below its initial temperature. The larger the difference in thermal expansion, the larger is the resulting mechanical displacement.”

While researching on the feasibility, we noticed that there are some projects out there which uses bimetal coils to create movements via temperature such as the following:

The metal strips curl upwards when heated, allowing air to pass through. The full project description can also be seen here

For this direction, we are still in the midst of figuring it out, we will have to get the materials and test it out via sunlight to see if it works before we work out on the possible structure to supports the entire reaction. 



Product Design IV // Week 5

Fiona x Shanelle

Moving forward, from our previous progress. We decided that we need to be more specific as to:

  • How can we improve the well-being of people in the campus? What do we mean by well-being? How can we improve well-being as defined? What is the current situation in a particular context that is lacking that reduces or add on as barriers?  — Purpose
  • How can the function of the characteristics of pangolin be related to the space and environment of NTU? Purpose
  • Explore the construction of the modules in the sculpture from the basics
  • Look into available sustainable materials that can be sustained in given context.

With the main objective to create a bond between nature and us, we went for a walk around the school to identify design opportunities. One of the interesting thing that we observe at North Spine is that the bigger tree serves as a support for the climber plants to grow upright as shown in the photo below.

From there we thought “How can we ensure that climbing plants can flourish without the support of trees? How do we combine design and plants such that the design itself can serve as a support to cultivate and nurture the plants?”

Furthermore, we were looking at a particular tree at South Spine and how the shadows cast down by the sun serves as a shade. At a different point of the day, the sun casts the shadow differently which led to the changing patterns and position of the shade. Inspired by these unintentional fluid patterns of nature, we thought that our sculpture could not just serve as an art piece, the shadows of the sculpture could have a purpose as well.

Thereafter we looked out for locations in school where we could incorporate this idea. By adopting natural living organism to make up the design, we want our sculpture to not just beautify the space, but serves a function of a shade as well. Instead of taking years to grow a tree, a simple design that supports the growth of climbing plants could be an alternative.

Design reference 1

Designed by Architect Jean-Jaques Hubert, this plant trellis system is a living work of art whereby the climber plants interact with space. The plants grip the surfaces, crawl along the wall and invade the ceiling horizontally. Designed to withstand and aid the growth of plants, the designer had in mind to create a volume in space that takes a life of its own.


A quick recap of our design inspiration from last week, we chose the Pangolin firstly because it is one of the endangered wildlife in NTU. Secondly, what is so special about Pangolin is that it is the only mammal with a modular overlapping scales that curves like a pavilion covering the body that we can study and possibly adopt. The overlapping pattern of pangolin scales provides effective body coverage, allows air to circulate, and regulates temperature. This mechanism provides design possibilities that could be implemented in exposed pathways in NTU aforementioned earlier.

Design reference 2

The roof of the Waterloo international terminal is inspired by the scales of Pangolin. The curvature of the design took shape in the early stage of the design process, in order to create a structure that adapts to the existing roof, the team mimics the overlapping modular arrangement of a Pangolin scale. The modular glass panels are overlapped and joined together to make up the organic form. The repetition and modularity make assembly much easier, cheaper and stronger.

You may click here for more insights. (But do take note that  it may not be what we are going for)

Keywords dictionary – updated


– Adapts to surrounding architecture

Repeating modules

– Multiplying and repeating one module, using a joint to form the overall shape


– By overlapping the different modules to create a space for plants to invade through.

Concealed vs exposed

– The play between positive space and negative space.

Possible design and construction of modules

This time instead of jumping straight into the ultimate design, we decided to start from designing the basic shape of the module that will make up the overall sculpture.

Hexagons are scientifically proven to be the most efficient packing shape. Triangles are part of the hexagonal family. Apart from looking into geometric shapes, we explored organic ones as well and how they could possibly overlap as shown in the diagram below.

As we want our sculpture to function as both a trellis and a shade, we want to look into balancing the use of positive and negative space.  

Sustainability – Material choice

As a fantastic insulator, wood has excellent thermal properties. Buildings made up from sustainable timber are more efficient to heat and cool and reduces the carbon footprint overtime in the long run

Benefits of Mass Engineered Timber?

Construction Productivity

  • Reduces construction time
  • High strength-to-weight ratio makes it easier to handle than steel and concrete

Environmental Sustainability

  • Highly renewable
  • Reduces up to 70% of concrete use in buildings
  • Highly durable, long life cycle
  • Superior noise control, better acoustics
  • Reduces need for finishing materials
  • Fewer disamenities due to dry method of construction

Technically a grass, bamboo has been used in decorations and a number of other assortments. As a sustainable resource, bamboo is also a cost-effective one. It is not only water resistant but also an extremely durable piece of material.

Benefits of Bamboo?

Construction Productivity

  • Can be used in combination with other types of construction materials – like reinforcing materials for foundations.
  • Light building material
  • Maintains strength and allows bending

Environmental Sustainability

  • Highly renewable
  • Highly durable, long life cycle
  • Reduces need for finishing materials



Product Design IV // Week 4

Fiona x Shanelle


NTU is surrounded by nature and greenery, however, many students spend most of their time indoors in school. Prior research has shown that nature and greeneries offer an opportunity to relax our directed attention, thus providing relief from mental fatigue. Exposure to nature greeneries repulses depression in adults.

Our main objective for this project is to improve the quality of life and mental well-being for students in NTU by creating an opportunity for interaction between human and nature without invading nature.

Story and insight

What is unique about NTU? Surrounded by much greenery, NTU is also home to wildlife such as wild boars, pangolin, hornbill and even snakes. Wildlife is so common that you may even spot the “Caution! Animal Crossing” signs on the roads leading into the campus itself. However, w
henever trees are being cut down to make space for new facilities and infrastructure around the school, endangered wildlife residing around NTU are also slowly losing their natural habitat.

Credits: Nanyang Chronicle

Research – Sustainability in NTU

To start off, we read up about the current ongoing efforts by Ecocampus to maintain sustainability in NTU.


The EcoCampus initiative is an ERI@N Flagship Programme and is jointly hosted by ERI@N and Sustainable Earth Office in NTU. They aim to develop a novel campus-wide sustainability framework with demonstration sites to achieve 35% reduction in energy, water and waste intensity by 2020, making it one of the world’s most eco-friendly campuses in the world. As a part of EcoCampus’ renewable energy efforts, NTU fulfills 3-5% of its energy demand from solar panels installed on rooftops.The solar panels have 5 MWp capacity and save NTU about $1.5 million in annual electricity costs.

You may read up more about Ecocampus’s projects for here.

Design References

Interesting insight about plant technology.


Apart from our main objective of improving the interaction between nature and us, we would also like to draw attention to the animals residing in NTU. Amongst all the wildlife in NTU, we decided to focus on a particular one that is special as it is rare and critically endangered. We looked into the anatomy and movement of a Pangolin and created an infographic as shown.

The movement of the scales of the pangolin allows air to circulate, regulating its temperature. The arrangement of the scales in an overlapping hexagonal pattern around a central scale ensures that no part of the pangolin is exposed when it curls up. The arrangement also enables the scales to slide over each other, making the armor very flexible.

Looking at the anatomy of the Pangolin, focusing especially on their scales, the keywords that we have derived are Flexible, Repetition, Modular, Airy, Layered and Interlocking, Concealed vs Exposed. We would like to refer to these keywords as a guide for our sculptural design.

Further research 

In addition, we looked into ways we can create movement with modular structure and chanced upon very interesting techniques.

This 3D printed biomimicry chair is designed by Dutch designer Lilian van Daal. By manipulating the material density through the design, the designer managed to introduce a spongy quality to the otherwise stiff material.

This Solar Bytes pavilion, designed by assistant professor, Brian Peters, highlights the potential of new approach available to architecture: robotic arms, 3D printing, smart technologies such as lighting sensors, and solar energy.


A quick recap, our keywords that we have derived from our inspiration are Flexible, Repetition, Modular, Airy, Layered and Interlocking, Concealed vs ExposedIn line with our objective to integrate nature and maximize green space in this tight urban environment, we want a sculpture whereby nature can nurture within, whereby air/wind can flow not just over but through it just like the scales of a pangolin. The following is our initial design.

Current material consideration: Timber.
Location consideration: Near Nanyang Auditorium 

Our next explorations

  • Look into how the hexagonal patterns could interlock, the details of the structure.
  • Select what kind of plants to focus on and study how they grow.
  • Sustainability: Look into how a stronger structure could be created in terms of the materials that we could use and the design of the structure.
  • Scout for other possible locations
  • Look into ways to incorporate the idea of ‘harvesting energy’ into the sculpture.
  • Improve the design of the sculpture
  • Research more, look deeper.


  1. Consider the ‘why’ – Why are you inspired by the scales of a Pangolin, does it served a functional purpose of why and how it should be implemented into NTU and your sculpture. Where in NTU will need such a function?
  2. The construction of the modularity in the sculpture? 
  3. It is not necessary to incorporate technology into this concept, adopt natural resources/material as there’s a differentiation between natural energy and man-made energy.
  4. Think deeper into the usage of material. What are some sustainable materials?
  5. Keep in mind that 3D printing technically isn’t really sustainable with consideration of the tropical climate of Singapore. The material might not endure wear and tear with the temperature of Singapore. 
  6. Tap on the keywords you have identified, dive deeper and be more specific.

References,12,green_sculpture.html – Photosynthesis under artificial light