Last week we shared details of Theo Jansen’s recent visit to PEM, as the Dutch artist prepares for his upcoming exhibition here. Jansen explained to us how his invented “lifeforms,” the magnificent Strandbeests, actually work. Below, is my process of trying to put one together…in numerous easy steps.
Before you get your hopes up, I didn’t build a full sized beach behemoth. I’ll leave that sort of work for Jansen – the artist that has been creating the wind propelled creatures since 1990. I built a miniature version of a beast called Animaris Ordis Parvus whose larger brother can be seen here.
Building the little guy wasn’t easy. I played with K’Nex and Legos as a child, but I wasn’t prepared for all the moving parts. It took me almost two and a half hours to get all the pieces assembled. Did it walk? You’ll have to read on to find out.
Here’s the box the beast came in. Notice how calm and regal it looks sliding along on the beach.
The chaos begins. This is the entire contents of the box. I kept all the pieces inside their bags until I needed them. Some of the parts are very small and the last thing I wanted was a beast that didn’t walk.
All the parts laid out next to the first half of the instructions.
This is a list of all the parts included with the beast. It’s everything you need to build it plus a few extra parts just in case.
Attaching a rubber shoe.
A foot with a shoe in my hand for scale.
Up next is building the legs through a three step process. First I had to attach all the little “arms” to the triangle joints.
Here’s what it looks like when they are all attached.
Then even smaller “arms” were attached to the triangle joints.
All the triangle joints look a bit like capital “A” when both “arms” are attached.
If you’re keeping track at home you’ll know that this is a picture of everything that’s been put together so far. This step involved attaching all the feet to the leg joints which created…
A BUNCH OF TRAPEZOIDS. Trapezoids happen to be my favorite shape and only mostly because ‘zoid’ is part of the name. Anyway, I was excited about this happenstance that I would have seen coming had I paid attention to the box art.
Now that the legs are done it’s time to build the spine. The eight triangles come together on the two crankshafts to create the spine of the beast.
Here’s the completed spine.
This is how the crankshaft works inside the spine.
Now comes the tricky part. All 12 of the legs need to be attached to the spine using the remaining arms. This took a lot of fine motor skills so I didn’t take many pictures of the process.
I had to split the spine in half where the two crankshafts attached to make the leg attachment easier.
They come together pretty easily from there and are held together by a rubber band at the top of the spine triangle.
All I had to do from here was build the fan and attach the gears. The fan came together pretty quickly although it’s always a challenge to work with small strips of double sided tape.
Remember when I said the leg “arms” needed to be attached in a specific order? I didn’t figure that out until I tried to make it walk and I couldn’t. I bought a few co-workers in to show the beast walking and of course it didn’t work. Here I am making some final adjustments while they wait for me to get it right.
Here I am with my completed beast! I was excited to have it all together but what I really wanted was to see it walk. Check out the video below.
The Strandbeest Walks!
The moral of the story? If I can build a miniature Strandbeest so can you! If you think it’s as awesome as I do, you can get one online from strandbeest.com.