Building and Breaking (and Learning) with Set Construction

Students in Sampo Pyhälä‘s Construction and Design course have been hard at work the last two weeks in Aalto Studios’ set construction workshop space, learning about proper set construction methods and honing their intuition when it comes to building sets.

The goal, according to Pyhälä, is not about approaching it from a rigid engineering perspective, but more to give students a good set of principles of what will and won’t work.

The crowning project of the course was to construct model bridges in order to practice the methodology and ideas they learned. The students spent over a week artfully constructing 2–3 meter long bridges as a group, one of cardboard, another of wood, sharpening their skills as they went. They even went as far as to tie red ribbon across each entrance to the “road” surface of the wooden bridge, which was ceremoniously cut when the bridge was finally in place, simulating a real “grand opening.”

And then, slowly and methodically, and without mercy, they crushed the bridges.

After all the students recorded their predictions about each bridges’ weight capacity, Pyhälä and Aalto Studios’ workshop master Jyri Lahelma placed 12kg weights, one by one, slowly building the suspense. The cardboard bridge went first, at 168kg, but the wooden bridge just wouldn’t quit, forcing Pyhälä and Lahelma to search the workshop for even more weight.

As you can see from the above image, the bridge — affectionally named “Taival,” — did indeed break, but only after far more weight than everyone predicted was loaded onto the main bridge surface. It withstood over 600kg, far exceeding the seemingly lofty 400kg prediction by the most optimistic student.

Watch the slow-motion footage of the bridges breaking

See the cardboard bridge crack under 168kg, and “Taival,” break at over 600kg.

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