PolyPuzzle at the Bridges Conference

Posted by Steve Lynett on March 17, 2012 | Posted under 3D puzzles, art, Bridges Conference, craftsmanship, creativity, discovery, geometry, imagination, paper puzzles, polypuzzle

The incredible imaginings of sculptor Bob Stowell 

Blue-Green Super Sphere                180 Folded Hexagons              Sphere with Imbedded Crystal


Bob Stowell, artist, sculptor, designer and one of the key people behind our PolyPuzzle product lines has entered these three pieces of art in the 2012 Bridges Conference. It's the largest mathematics and art interdisciplinary conference in the world and this year it will be held in Baltimore, Maryland. The annual conference has traveled to cities in North America and Europe, and attracted participants from over thirty countries.

Following is the statement Bob submitted to the conference along with his work:

"I created these three pieces using a geometric construction system called PolyPuzzle, which uses a programmed laser to precision-cut myriad shapes in high-quality colored paper. The system was invented by my friend and colleague James Ziegler.

"The seeds of this new method of working were planted a few years ago, when James and I were looking at my geometric paper constructions, some of which were exhibited at the 2005 Banff Bridges Conference. The availability of a stock of pre-cut pieces allows me freedom to experiment in a spirit of open-minded play with different combinations of shapes.

"While the PolyPuzzle system relies solely on locking-tabs, I have taken the liberty of moving beyond this system, creating new works, or modifying existing ones and augmenting with glued joints. Although these constructions come out of a knowledge of the basic geometric solids, PolyPuzzle has led me to surprisingly different structures – ones I may not have otherwise discovered."

What follows are the descriptions Bob used for each of his three submissions: 

The Super Sphere 

The Super Sphere came out of experimentation with PolyPuzzle pieces. I discovered a module made of three hexagons (three edges curved) and three small triangles, and realized they could be connected in the manner of an icosidodecahedron. To fill the left-over, five-sided openings, I made the longer "bow-tie" pieces which connect the pentagons in the centre. The design evolved so that the bow-tie and isosceles triangle were combined into a single piece. This piece was sized to create a curved form with the set of hexagons. Aesthetically, the bow-tie pieces emphasize the pentagonal faces. I love spherical forms and the feeling of accomplishment I get when the last pieces are installed. Although this has a basic icosidodecahedral form, it is in fact quite unique. Does it fit any known geometric solid?

180 Folded Hexagons 

This piece of folded hexagons goes back to a discovery I made in 1969 about the possibilities of curved scoring in combination with regular and semi-regular geometric solids. It is made up of 180 hexagonal PolyPuzzle pieces with curved scoring in a triangular pattern. Because the inherent tension in the form tends to pull the joints apart, the internal joints are glued. The spherical form is a derivative of a truncated icosahedron and its intrinsic beauty is emphasized by the "flower of life" pattern in both the pentagons and hexagons.

Sphere with Imbedded Crystal

This spherical form is derived from a small rhombicuboctahedron and is constructed of 18 octagonal PolyPuzzle pieces with curved scoring in a square pattern. The colored inserts are each made of three rhombi to form a three-pointed star shape. As with the piece titled ‘180 Folded Hexagons’, this form required a high degree of skill and craftsmanship. The contrast between curved and straight-edged forms, and the interplay of overlapping circles, creates a compellingly aesthetic piece that invites the eye to trace the patterns and symmetry.

Read more about the Bridges Conference here