Assembly Language – Jesse Colin Jackson’s Marching Cubes

The latest iteration of a decade-long investigation into modular construction systems in architecture (and beyond), Marching Cubes is a 3D-printed assembly system by the Canadian Artist Jesse Jackson. Inspired by the graphics algorithm of the same name, the project is a syntax for building volumes from 3D printed blocks. Thus far Jackson has trotted out his system twice: at a participatory ‘building party’ at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), and at a recent solo exhibition at Toronto’s Pari Nadimi Gallery.

A little history lesson is needed to appreciate Jackson’s blocks. In the late 1980s William E. Lorensen and Harvey E. Cline developed an algorithm for extracting a polygonal mesh of an isosurface from a 3D scalar field. Coming at computer graphics from a medical imaging perspective, their ‘Marching Cubes’ algorithm endeavoured to provide more accurate visualizations of CT and MRI scan data. The duo presented their findings at SIGGRAPH 1987 and published a paper shortly thereafter in Computer Graphics; in its abstract they summarized their method:

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