The exhibit celebrated Theo Jansen’s artistic and engineering creation, the Strandbeest. The Strandbeest is a beach animal, constructed from recycled plastic bottles and tubing, that Jansen sculpts into moving creatures with a “skeleton”, “wings”, and “muscles”. My favorite bit is the wind storage mechanism, which Jansen describes as:
…[It] consists of recycled plastic bottles containing air that can be pumped up to a high pressure by the wind. They contain a supply of potential wind. Take off the cap and the wind will emerge from the bottle at high speed. The trick is to get that untamed wind under control and use it to move the animal. For this, muscles are required. Beach animals have pushing muscles which get longer when told to do so. These consist of a tube containing another that is able to move in and out. There is a rubber ring on the end of the inner tube so that this acts as a piston. When the air runs from the bottles through a small pipe in the tube it pushes the piston outwards and the muscle lengthens.
Having trouble imagining this? Here is a visual.
Can you imagine building one of the Beests? I pushed one around the exhibit hall (obviously there wasn’t a ton of wind there for self-propulsion) and was impressed with the massiveness, balance, and ease with which it moved.
I recently built my mini-Strandbeest model while watching Gilmore Girls, obviously—this might be my optimal zen combination—and thought to myself: there is no way this is going to walk smoothly. Or self-propel.
But it turns out that Jansen’s ‘holy numbers’ work just as well scaled down. I am really pleased with how it turned out, and Minerva loves watching it.