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Sculpting Geometry: A Berkeley Professor Explores the Art of Math (and Vice Versa)

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Computer scientist Carlo Séquin has taken geometric modeling to a whole new level. Via Cal Alumi Association UC Berkeley.

Carlo Séquin lives in a world of impossible objects and mind-bending shapes. Visiting the computer science professor emeritus’s office is like taking a trip down the rabbit hole. Paradoxical forms are found in every corner, piled on shelves, poised on pedestals, hanging from the ceiling—optical illusions embodied in paper, cardboard, plastic, and metal.

“Once I have a simple procedural geometric form in the computer, I can change some of the parameters and make 20 or 30 pieces on the 3D printer that are in the same family,” he explains, grabbing various models to illustrate his point or, if one is not in reach, twisting his hands and arms to represent the forms.

And if you visit the sixth floor terrace in Sutardja Dai Hall, you can’t help but be drawn to a twisting stone tower on a pedestal, designed by Séquin and gifted by one of his former Bell Labs colleagues, Paul Suciu. The sculpture, titled Pillar of Engineering, is based on one of the small 3D-printed models that caught Suciu’s eye in a visit to Séquin’s office.

Art and science may seem strange bedfellows—unbridled creativity at odds with logic and reason. Yet they run on the same fuel: passion, curiosity, and a sense of wonder about the world. Artists and scientists conjure up ideas through vision, intuition, and study, and use myriad techniques to manifest those ideas in the physical world.

“Art and science really have the same origin,” Séquin says. “They are often both about intense observation and abstraction to obtain a deeper understanding of complex ideas and systems.”

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