Virga - a Collaborative Kinetic Installation


Virga explores the intersection of steam bending and digital fabrication to produce a collaboratively-produced kinetic light installation inspired by cloud formations. The project is part of our Field Study initiative, in which students and faculty travel each year to conduct embedded workshops with expert artists, designers, fabricators and industry partners, producing tangible artifacts we collectively exhibit afterward. Structured workshops introduce new activities and processes each year, with students working alongside faculty. Designers, increasingly, must navigate between and blend disciplines, working adaptively to create new environments, visuals, messaging and products. To produce Virga, faculty and students collaborated with experts to design and fabricate a collection of glowing sculptural forms inspired by cloud formations and made from steam-bent wood, 3D-printed connectors, programmable lights and tailored fabric. During an 8-day workshop in Spain, thin, paired strips of wood, cut from locally sourced ash trees, were trimmed to size, sanded, soaked overnight in water, heated in a steam chamber, and then bent into digitally-fabricated molds. When assembled, the bent-wood curves create a family of related but distinct forms. Designed for disassembly and portability, the collection now forms an interactive, kinetic installation, subtly shifting and rearranging—rising and falling as it glows. Our Field Study has taken us to work with glassblowers in England, with felt makers in the Netherlands, with metalworkers in Morocco and with ceramicists and computational designers in Italy. Field Study projects have been showcased in Venice, during the Venice Biennale, and in the Rossana Orlandi Gallery, Milan, during Milan Design Week.


Rab McClure
Director of Graduate Studies, MFA in Design, VCUarts Qatar, Qatar


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Designed Objects


Collaboration, Workshop-Based Instruction, Kinetic Installation, Steam-Bending

Digital Media


Virga A Collaborative Kinetic Installation (Embed)