Artist and neurobiologist Alan Rorie has created create software — a Java applet — which allows a user to collaboratively design their very own, one-of-a-kind bookshelf based upon a well-known design pattern called a Voronoi diagram. With Rorie‘s software, end users can design their own unique pattern through the introduction of a series of “seed” points within a five-sided frame. Once finished, the pattern is CNC routed out of white birch plywood. Now, the “everyman” customer can take an active role in creating their own bookshelf according to their personality, tastes, and the space where it’s going to be placed.

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Photograph by Hero Design.

Vornoi diagrams have been known for a long time now. Each one consists of a set of complex polygons the sides of which are defined by their distance to user-generated points in such a way that each wall is equidistant from the two closest points. Every point within a cell is nearer to that cell’s seed point than any other.

333px-Coloured_Voronoi_3D_sliceA slice of the Voronoi diagram of a random set
of points in a 3D box.

Rorie says “It became really popular in architecture as digital fabrication kind of took off over the past, say, 10 years or so. The interaction is very simple; all you do is put down a bunch of points, but you get a tremendous amount of complexity out of it. [The bookshelf] fits very well in [the apartment of my girlfriend and me], because we’re not straight-line people. The idea of ordering all your books on little rows is not for us.”

normal_voronoi_knauss_oesterleImage courtesy of Bing Images

“I think, in the future — in the not-too distant future — people will expect that there are some designs that you can influence and interact with. I think it will really change the way people perceive design, and the role of design in their life, when design isn’t just something you consume, but it’s something that you participate in.”