Monthly Archives: February 2012

The prior physical experiment led me to investigate how round objects with rigid edges would differ from the round object with round edges. I simply stacked a couple nickels, imagining them as books only to discover how inconvenient it really is to retrieve the one at the very bottom. That led me to try and set the coins vertically, resting on the thin edges. The three would not stand together, so I patiently set one on its edge. It did fairly well until I tapped the table, causing the coin to drop flat.

Of course, if these coins were about the same size as a standard book, they could have withstood being placed on their edges. But considering the small size and weight, it was not something that could have been achieved so easily.┬áNow, it seems even more clear to me that the traditional bookshelf that holds books vertically really is an efficient design. It also makes more sense for books not to be manufactured as round objects, which would also be a problem when it comes to reading the content. The purpose of the bookshelf is to store and display one’s collection of books and other knick-knacks.

If one were to attempt to reinvent the bookcase, they would have to consider every interaction that one has with not only the bookcase but also with every item the bookshelf stores.

Books are printed as varying quadrilateral shapes, and are placed onto bookshelves that are designed to have three walls and an open face to display the book spines. Stone tablets, illuminated manuscripts, bound books, etc. are widely made in rectangular shapes, and I have to agree that this makes a lot of sense to keep it that way.

Accordingly, for my next physical experiment, I decided to focus on form and weight. I wanted to evaluate the opposing options through the lens of these two categories. I took a floss dispenser with a flat bottom face and rounded edges to explain that in order for books to stand upright, they must have enough surface area at the bottom to sustain itself. As soon as I attempted to lean the case on the rounded parts, it would immediately slip and fall flat on its side.

I then realized that if the case were placed between two flat surfaces, it would still hold up because of the friction and weight placed on either side of the object. When it was placed between two books, it held just perfectly. However, when I tried to lean it on one rectangular block, it continued to slip and fall. In order for it to be stable, it needed to have support on either sides. In the images that display the case standing on the curved edges, leaning against the books, I had to muster up all my patience to try and set it to stay that way. The weight needed to be balanced, considering its form, because the curved edges did not provide enough surface area for it to rest securely.

In the end, I concluded that it really does make sense for a books to be manufactured in the shapes that they are. The traditional standard bookshelf designs, therefore, are mostly recognized for function over their form.

For my first physical experiment, I recruited my roommate. She just recently purchased quite a number of books to add to her collection, and I figured it would be a great time to see how she organizes them. Having had my share of experiences shelving books, I knew she’d come across a number of issues especially considering that first, she doesn’t have a bookshelf and second, she has a variety of sizes and shapes of books.

Her final set-up

Her immediate instinct was to put her books on the floor. She organized them, left to right, from largest to smallest along the edge of the wall. Problem solved? Wrong. The books at the end would not stop slipping and falling, leaving room for the other books to topple sideways. That’s why the box of Bounce is there, acting as a bookend. Without the box, gravity would certainly take initiative and cause the books to slip and fall.

Another factor that plays heavily alongside gravity is friction. Friction is the resistance that takes place when two objects’ surfaces run across each other. In this example, my roommate’s books have been placed on top of a plastic material. If they had been placed on a material such as carpet, there would be greater friction and less reason for her to need the makeshift bookend with a box of dryer sheets. It’s the meager amount of friction between the bottom of the books and the plastic surface that causes them to constantly slide and topple over.

For a bookshelf to sustain a substantial amount of books, it must break gravity and friction’s forces. Therefore, it only makes sense for the standard bookshelf to be set against a wall with side panels to hold the books in place. The generic bookshelf design is so engrained into our lifestyles, that it’s hard to imagine it being in any other shape or form. My roommate’s decision to organize her books the way she did only emulates the standards that society has adapted over time. It’s practical and most logical in terms of it functioning exactly as it should.

Hans Haacke's 'Blue Sail'

In my teacher’s lecture about deconstruction, she demonstrated the idea of cause and effect through artist Hans Haacke’s “Weather Events,” a piece in which a large blue fabric is placed over a fan. It then undulates in accordance with the movement of the wind from the fan.

It reminded me of Alber Elbaz’s 2008 Spring collection for Lanvin. The gowns are designed to accentuate the beauty of the material and to highlight the beauty of these organic shapes that form through the wind that flows within it. If the gowns were presented in a stagnant display, I don’t think they would be understood to be as beautiful as they really are. Without the wind, the gown would merely be another dress made by some fabric. But because the interaction between the movement and the garment is so captivating, it leaves an impression of it being an art piece in itself. The garment alone is a display.

Similarly, I wonder what a bookcase would be without the books. Sure, it can still hold other things, but would we still be concerned about class and levels of education? Would it still relate to the prominent shift from tangible documents to digitally formatted files that is sweeping today’s culture? Maybe this connection is a bit far-fetched? But I still think it’s incredibly relative. Without the books, what would a bookcase be? Just some platform or stack of negative space that are there for what?

3. Language: Rename your category.

  • Book displaying structure

4. Identify neighboring categories.

  • Online databases/resources, public storage, Internet, museums, homes, etc.
  • Semiotics of class, level of education, power.

These identifying categories were selected with acknowledgement to the fact that bookcases are used to display or hold things which offer insight into many types of subjects and interests.