Chicago — To celebrate the eighth annual Chicago Design Week, SOM is presenting a special exhibition in the lobby of the Railway Exchange Building. The Kinematic Sculpture, a 27-foot-long origami-like pavilion, demonstrates the application of SOM’s cutting-edge structural engineering research. The sculpture responds to the theme of Chicago Design Week, “Design in Motion,” by exploring the science of motion through the lens of integrated design.

This year’s Design Week, running from Oct. 27 through Nov. 3, examines the evolving definitions, responsibilities, and societal expectations that influence designers today.

The Kinematic Sculpture is inspired by ancient origami techniques and driven by the mathematical relationships between force and motion. It is the product of recent explorations by SOM’s in-house research teams. Working at the intersection of engineering and architecture, the researchers combined emerging ideas with established engineering principles to realize the sculpture.

From its design and engineering to its assembly, the sculpture was conceived and built entirely by SOM staff, with components manufactured in SOM’s model shop. Built of wood and suspended above the ground from aluminum trusses, the “rigid origami” sculpture is composed of 99 panels connected by stainless steel hinges. The panel surfaces remain rigid throughout the sculpture as it shifts to take a variety of shapes.

The installation exemplifies the collaboration between architecture and engineering that is the cornerstone of SOM’s practice. By exploring kinematics through interdisciplinary research, the sculpture is intended to open a dialogue and catalyze new ideas and approaches to engineering and architecture.

The Kinematic Sculpture is on view through the end of November 2018 in the ground-floor lobby of the historic Railway Exchange Building at 224 South Michigan Avenue, SOM’s Chicago headquarters. The exhibition is open to the public and admission is free. Chicago Design Week 2018 is the first time the sculpture is exhibited as a standalone work. It was previously featured as part of “Poetic Structure: Art + Engineering + Architecture,” an exhibition at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles.

Chicago Design Week is led by a partnership between the American Institute of Graphic Arts – Chicago, the Chicago Design Museum, and the Society of Typographic Arts. Originally launched in 2010, the event is a community-driven effort, involving a series of self-produced exhibits, tours, lectures, and performances throughout Chicago. Learn more at