### M. Preston Burns, Pandora's Box, Experiential Geometry

I've been experimenting for over thirty years with geometric models. Recently, my collaborator and the man who introduced me to this work, M Preston Burns, died and I have been going over his portfolio and papers. Mel or, as I knew him, Bud Burns worked primarily with the cube and the tetrahedron. He divided the square faces of the cube on the diagonal revealing the equilateral tetrahedron packed inside. He cut and hinged the cube and made a winged tetrahedron, eight hinged equilateral triangles, to fit inside. Then he filled the corners with ToyBlox, wooden forms which demonstrated the two-fold symmetries of the cube and tetrahedron. He called it Pandora's Box and demonstrated six inch, one foot, four, six, and eight foot models publicly since around 1970 when he built the first prototype.

This is a short video of what was probably his last presentation of Pandora's Box :

The advantage of working with these models is that they teach geometry and symmetry experientially, without the need of numbers or words. These forms are inherent in dimensionality. They are true, in the way a carpenter measures true - straight, level, plumb. By having three dimensional models you can turn around in your hands, you develop a hand-eye relationship with fundamental geometric forms. The cube and tetrahedron models of Pandora's Box teach the relationship between the right triangle and the equilateral triangle as well as two-fold and three-fold symmetry viscerally. This is full contact mathematics.

If you are interested in this kind of experiential geometry, there will be a symposium on "Synergetics and Morphology" at the Rhode Island School of Design on November 3 and 4, 2007 in Providence, RI. Further information is available from the Synergetics Collaborative

Another short video of Bud outlining his symbology system:

His friends will remember M Preston Burns at the current exhibit of his work in Cambridge, MA at Toscanini's Ice Cream, 899 Main Street on Tuesday, August 28 at 7 pm.

You can see more of his drawings at Bud's Gallery

Labels: geometry, M Preston Burns, Pandora's Box, R. Buckminster Fuller, synergetics, video