• Photograph of Cloud Box installed at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York.

  • Photographs of Cloud Box installed at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York.

  • Detail photograph of CNC-milled fiber-optic distribution pattern.

  • Photograph of Cloud Box installed at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York.

Cloud Box


Prototype Design



Experimental prototype developed through a private research grant and exhibited at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York in 2000.

Project Description

Cloud Box is the product of a three month research project conducted through a departmental research grant at RPI for instructors and has been exhibited there as well as at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in 2000.  Synthesizing computer numerically controlled fabrication, material, and lighting systems at a furniture scale, Cloud Box is a prototype that incorporates a multi-use program of storage, illumination, and display. In Cloud Box the material attributes of acrylic are augmented with layers of more immaterial media like fiber-optic lighting.

As a prototype, Cloud Box responds to how the properties of a material can be reformulated according to the specific technologies active in its production. A network of grooves is cut into a series of 16 3/4″ acrylic panels distributing an intricately laced fiber optic illumination system.   The geometry of the groove pattern, CNC cut into 8 drape  formed acrylic shelves and 8 side wall panels, regulates the position and type of lighting through the display system.  Within the streaming logic of the grooves, luminous intensities are produced by looping the fiber-optic cable in various configurations defined by the patterning. The process is two fold where the pattern of grooves cut into the shelving units is regulated by the parameters of the fiber optic cable, and the larger networking of that cable facilitated by the drape formed bent connections of the shelves to the sidewall panels, allowing the cable to migrate from inside a panel to outside a shelf, from vertical to horizontal.  When looking through the case (at its short end) lighting is ambient and objects located within it are blurred, their contours merging together.  When viewing it frontally, the various lighting conditions and discrete character of the objects displayed within it emerge. 

The objective of employing a standardized production method that allows for variation operates both at the scale of the drape formed modular panels and at the scale of the CNC etching. At both scales methods of repetition and redundancy afford flexibility and customization.  This balance is reflected on an organizational level in that both shelves and cables are allowed multiple configurations.  On a programmatic level the whole assembly operates as a purely functional storage, display, and lighting unit while the system performs simultaneously as an object of display in and of itself. The relationship between objects and the environment in which they are displayed is blurred and intensifiedthrough the guise of display systems where different diagonal systems are embedded within the grid generating oblique patterns of storage and viewing.

Project Credits


David Erdman, Marcelyn Gow, Ulrika Karlsson, Chris Perry

Design Team: Emily Grandstaff, Jung Ho, Don Schneider



RPI School of Engineering