Make Architecture



09. Motion: City_MOVE

The goal of this project is to make things move using gears and a motor. I chose to make a diorama – a cityscape set in New York City complete with M Arch Level II scalies.

I was inspired by Arthur Ganson‘s kinetic sculptures currently on display at the MIT Museum, especially a piece titled “Machine with Wishbone”.

City_MOVE by Juliet Hsu

Make Time:

  • 3 hours – Design & Template File
  • 1 hour  – Laser Cut
  • 3+ hours – Assembly

Tools and Components:


DESIGN. The diorama is designed to be 19″ wide x 7″ deep x 3″ box height / 8″ to top of cityscape.

Using Rhinoscript (download here), draw involute gear tooth profile around tangent circles. Start with the smallest circle > load script > gearGen.RVB > select pitch circle > teeth > 10. For the rest of the circles > select pitch circle > module > 0.15 (find  from previous gear) > select pitch circle again.

Draw notches at edge of parts to ensure a tight fit.

Plywood File Template

Plexi File Template


SOLDER. Cut end of wall adapter power supply off. Strip rubber casing and wrap red and blue wire around + / – end of mini motor. Solder both ends but do not let them touch. Wrap each red and blue wire with electrical tape separately. Plug mini motor into wall to make sure that it’s working properly.

LASER CUT. Use laser recommendation for 1/8″ plexi – 95 power / 6 speed and 3/18″ plywood – 100 power / 3 speed.

Before cutting, remove top side of paper protecting the acrylic.

ASSEMBLY. Align notches and fit the box together. Attach gears to plywood piece with nylon screw, washer and nut. A few of the gears did not fit properly, so I used a hand drill and made new holes.

Slide mini motor onto plywood top piece. The motor stays via friction. However, this also lead to another issue (see problem encountered at bottom of page).

Attach piano wire to gear and cut to proper length. Thread wire through plexi top piece. Attach circular disc to piano wire and suspend in between plexi top piece. Glue scalies to moving discs.

Everyone is ready to move!

Problems encountered this week:

  • The plywood used is slightly bent and therefore it was difficult to have all the pieces fit together properly.
  • Glue in the plywood made the gears slightly sticky and prevented smooth rotation.
  • The top plate should have been set lower to allow gear and piano wire to move freely.
  • A lower plate should have been added to prevent the motor body from rotating when the gears are stuck.

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Instructor: Nick Gelpi TA: Skylar Tibbits TA: Varvara Toulkeridou
Class Times, Monday, 1-4pm - room 5-216
4.184 is an intensive introduction to methods of making explored through a wide range of brief but focused 1-week exercises. We'll engage the real and leave behind representation in the focused context of this class gaining skills for utilizing a range of fabrication machines and technologies from lasercutting, waterjet, 3D printing, welding, formworking-molding, casting, gears, joints and composites.
In this workshop we'll constrain ourselves to the territory of the 1:1. Students will represent architectural constructions at full scale and develop a more intimate relationship with technology by engaging the tools and techniques that empower us. We will gain access to the most cutting edge machines and technologies in the MARS lab at the Center for Bits and Atoms.
The second layer of information for this course will be to look at a series of case studies in which construction methods and technologies have played a dominant role in the design process .
Over the past 20 years, architects have focused on the technology of representation to create new ideas of what architecture could be. Looking back today, much of that research failed to substantially change the way we design buildings by focusing on apriori formal configurations. This class makes the contention that this failure comes from a lack of considerations of the potentials within fabrication knowledge. We look to the future of what building might become, given the expanded palette of personalize-able technologies available to us as architects. Students will participate in curious technological and material investigations, to discover the potentials, known and unknown, for these various technologies.
The sub-disciplines of what's drawn and what's built have been compartmentalized and disassociated as the representational tools of architecture have distanced themselves from the techniques of making. At the same time the technologies for “making” in architecture have provided us with new possibilities for reinventing how we translate into reality, the immaterial representations of architecture.


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