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Gisela Baurmann
Studio at Princeton University


"Mendelsohn's task was to design only an appropriate shell for the technical equipment. The Tower's [..] fluid curvilinear, concave and convex forms let it appear sculptured rather than built, resembling in its shape a wind swept submarine with the sprawled arms of a sphinx. Outcroppings on both sides of the building serve as drain spouts. Unusual features include the angled windows placed in stream-lined niches which are moulded into the round corners." Bruno Zevi (1984)


Built in 1920, the Einstein Tower is a stylized sculptural expression that defines a unique formal language within the context of the emerging Modern Movement. At the same time, the tower is a precise scientific tool and remains in operation today. The Einstein Tower is also an icon of the scientific method. It houses a telescope designed by the German astronomer Erwin Freundlich for the experimental verification of the general theories of relativity and gravitation.

Assignment 3

A series of exercises analyze connective moments in the surface of the Einstein Tower Potsdam. The "Einstein Tower Detail" will be documented, examined and arrayed to generate a catalogue of possible spatial situations.


Building a new design in its neighborhood, we want to utilize the spatial and tectonic qualities of the tower, its proposed resolution of geometric intricacies and joining of complex surfaces as well as proposed transitions from exterior to interior spaces as a resource to develop a language of our own. A series of drawings analyze connective moments in the surface of the Einstein tower. Choose a detail of the tower where three surfaces meet. (water outlet, window sill, the surface niche into which a lamp is integrated, balustrade of the exterior stair, steps of circular / straight stairs, etc.) In Illustrator trace the Image unit with splines. Minimize anchor/control point count; maximize degrees of connectivity and continuity. Allow for your rule base to develop while several versions of the system emerge as line work.
Describe the rule base of you system in diagram and text.


Based on the precise documentation, a geometric detail of the Einstein Tower will be built in physical and digital models. The arrayed and optimized details will become a geometric resource for the spatial expression of the design proposal on Telegrafenberg.

Build two simple models of the Einstein Tower detail, one from wire (edges, vertices) and one from watercolor paper (surfaces). Prepare your construction well – precision in craft, the smoothness of surfaces, as well as their sharp-edged joining will be key. For the vertices model, figure out how to bend the wire in a continuous curvature (moulds?). Prepare a way to join the wire's ends (hooks, knots, etc.). For the surface models prepare a taylor's cut. Will you use overlaps or tape to join the surfaces together? Glue may be used in minimal amounts only.

These models represent continuities, joints and spatial sequences of the Einstein Tower detail. Proportions and the relationships of parts to the whole are important. Their precision lies in the craft and topology, not the measured dimensions of the detail.

Both models will be about hand-size.


After your introduction to the software, a detail model will be built in Rhino. One of the two analogue models becomes the standard for the construction of the digital model.

Import the line work of 3.1 into Rhino. Snap to anchor and control points to regenerate the geometry as Nurbs curves. Simple loft operations generate surface continuity. Work towards highest Nurbs craft and clean geometry.


-Stephen Barr, 'Experiments in Topology', Dover Publication Inc. 1989
-George Francis, 'A Topological Picture Book', Springer Verlag 1987
- Mendelsohn, Einsteinturm : Instandsetzung, 2000
- K. Hentschel Einstein Tower: dynamic construction, relativity theory, and astronomy, 1997
- Kenneth Frampton Modern Architecture, A Critical History, 2007
- Bruno Zevi, , 1918-2000. 1920-24 Erich Mendelsohn


.: gisela 9:00 PM