[Research & Process] Project 1: Pandora’s Box

Project 1: Pandora’s Box

As an introduction to rectilinear volumes, our first project required us to create sculptures that embodied different principles of design, all within the context of the story of Pandora’s Box. The project kicked off with everyone picking a random word from a small, wooden box, from which I got ‘symmetry’.

Research and Reference

Initially thinking of symmetry as a rather straightforward concept, I came to realise that depicting it in a physical, abstract form is quite challenging. After wracking my brains for a good few days, I decided to turn to research and reference artists and the ideas flowed from there.   

I. Dissecting ‘Symmetry’

‘Symmetry’ refers to ‘balanced proportions’ or the ‘beauty of form arising from balanced proportions’, when ‘elements are arranged in the same way on both sides of an axis’, creating ‘correct or pleasing proportion[s]’ of a subject. Common terms associated include ‘equilibrium’, ‘agreement’, and ‘harmony’.

The concept of symmetry encompasses three main techniques – reflection, rotation, and translation symmetry.

Reflection Symmetry The mirroring of an equivalent element around a central axis
Rotation Symmetry Rotation of equivalent elements around a common centre
Translation Symmetry Location of equivalent elements in different areas of space

Combinations of these techniques can therefore, create ‘harmonious, interesting, [and] memorable designs’.

II. Sou Fujimoto

Sou Fujimoto is one of Japan’s most recognised architects, whose body of work centres on ‘ambiguous interpretation[s] of spaces and forms’ in which he is inspired by ‘organic and natural structures (such as forests and caves)’. He has mentioned that with regards to the complexity of the natural environment, ‘we inject our human sense of order (and vice versa), carrying forward a new definition of space which responds to the changing times’, and with that, his works fit into the idea of this place ‘between the natural and human artificial’.

House H (2008)

Sou Fujimoto’s House H (2008)

House H was conceptualised as a dwelling for a family of three located in a residential district in Tokyo. It is said that living in a multi-storey complex in a ‘dense metropolis’ like Tokyo is ‘somehow similar to living in a large tree’, from which ‘exists a few large branches’, ‘endow[ing] numerous qualities’ such as ‘pleasant places to sit, sleep’, and ‘discourse’.

The residence is covered by holes – the walls, ceilings, and floors are ‘blatantly punctured and are interlocked three-dimensionally’, through which ‘one is able to see and feel through to the spaces adjacent, above and below oneself’. ‘The rich spatiality conceived here’ also consists of the three-dimensional factors of an ‘Escher image’.

III. Disparate Bus Stops

 Desparate Bus Stops is a project by British architectural photographers Hufton+Crow, where they documented seven disparate bus shelters scattered along roadways in the village of Krumbach, Austria. The structures of these bus shelters were reimagined by an international group of designers.

Hufton+Crow’s Disparate Bus Stops (2014)
From Left to Right:
Sou Fujimoto, Architecten de vylder vinck taillieu, Wang Shu +Lu Wenyu, and Alexander Brodsky

The bus stops focused on relating to the landscape in diverse ways, all while providing varying degrees of shelter from weather forces and indicating, with a strong presence, where passers-by may catch the regional transit.

I. Visually-Pleasing
  • Inclusion of visually-appealing elements
  • Focus on Reflection Symmetry
Moodboard for symmetry

After researching more on the concept of symmetry, I came across many instances where symmetry is associated with being rather geometric,  minimalist, slick, and clean-cut. On my part, I find minimalist structures visually-pleasing to look at (emphasises harmony) and hence, I intend to base my final product on this basis. Additionally, keeping in mind the criteria for this project – using rectilinear shapes with no tilting of volumes – I intend to expand more on Reflection Symmetry. 

II. Arrangement
  • Using shapes to enhance unity
  • Inclusion of light and void
Sou Fujimoto’s House H (2008)

I hope to emulate some factors of Sou Fujimoto’s House H, especially in adopting methods to turn the rigid nature of rectilinear volumes to establish separate but balanced forms. This is evident in House H‘s inclusion of void and natural lighting, which is seen through using transparent materials, as well as ‘using artificial and geometric order’ to create a ‘succession of void’.

III. Materiality
  • Material as visual and functional element

Coming across Disparate Bus Stops, I was inspired to approach the use of materials in both a visual and functional form. Using a variety of materials that range in opacity and texture, the designers in the project were able to take traditional bus stops and give them a modern twist that is, at the same time, visually-pleasing and functional in relation to its environment.

Bus stop by Smiljan Radic

My personal favourite is the one by Smiljan Radic, where I found his choice of material particularly interesting – in addition to the visually-appealing pairing of materials with different opacities and textures (glass and wood), the bus stop is also functional in the sense that users experience it in the same way they would at a regular bus stop, such as sitting while waiting for the bus. The attention to environmental factors – being surrounded by glass in a natural landscape – also makes it all the more visually-appealing and attention-grabbing.

I. Model 1

Model 1 focuses more on the concept of Translation Symmetry.

Model 1: Draft 1
Model 1: Drafts 2 and 3
Positive Changes To Make
Draft 1 Diagonal line of symmetry

Rule of Thirds (sizes of boxes used)

Established hierarchy

Line of symmetry to be present in all views
Draft 2 Diagonal line of symmetry

Rule of Thirds (sizes of boxes used)

Established hierarchy

Line of symmetry present in frontal view, through wedging

Boxes to be seen from different views

Try out different methods of display for SO

Draft 3 Lines of symmetry

Rule of Thirds (sizes of boxes used)

Established hierarchy

More interesting views from different angles

II. Model 2

Model 2 focuses more on the concept of Reflection Symmetry.

Model 2: Draft 1
Model 2: Draft 2
Model 2: Draft 3
Model 2: Draft 4


Positive Changes To Make
Draft 1  Line of symmetry


Unclear hierarchy: Change sizes of boxes

Lack of line of symmetry in other views: Look into wedging and piercing

Draft 2 Line of symmetry  Unclear hierarchy: Change shape of SD

Lack of line of symmetry in other views: Look into wedging and piercing

Draft 3  Line of symmetry

Symmetry more established  in different views

Unclear hierarchy: Change shape of SD, change length of SO

Application of Rule of Thirds

Lack of line of symmetry in other views: Look into wedging and piercing

Draft 4  Line of symmetry

Symmetry more established  in different views

Hierarchy: Change shape of SD, change size of SO

Apply materials

III. Model 3

Model 3 focuses more on Rotation Symmetry.

Model 3: Draft 1
Positive Changes To Make
Draft 1 Line of symmetry

Established hierarchy

Discard: No tilting of volumes
 IV. Preparation for Final

For my final product, I decided to go with Model 2 because of its clearer hierarchy of volumes and composition that allows for more expansion on the concept of symmetry. Its arrangement is also easier to apply for use in daily life as opposed to Model 1.


 – Link to final product and write-up: https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/vwong005/final-project-1-pandoras-box/

– Link to 2D sketch analysis (of interesting 3D object): https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/vwong005/2d-sketch-analysis/








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