Sho Takahashi

The Multiply-connected Universes of Sho Takahashi

Through the literature of the Tokyo-Berlin-Rome Axis left behind in the library of Tsukuba University, Takahashi became acquainted with the eccentric cosmological views of the Nazi Party, deriving from Hans Horbiger and even crazier people, which were taken up by Hitler and Himmler, the head of the Gestapo. Himmler believed that the Earth was indeed spherical but that we live on the inner concave surface. In April 1942 German military radar equipment at Ruegen was diverted to see if an echo could be obtained from the Antipodes, although after a moment’s reflection they should have realised that a spherical shell produces no gravitational field in its interior.

Takahashi found this idea too simple and was stimulated to think of something topologically more interesting than the Aryan occultism. He came upon the periodic minimal surfaces of H. A. Schwartz and his successors. For someone living on such a surface there would be many looped paths leading back home, like tunnels in a termite mound. Modern science fiction echoes the serious suggestions of John Wheeler and other modern cosmologists of multiply-connected universes.

The present series of pictures are part of a sustained effort to promote the use of these surfaces in engineering, design and art and to introduce shapes more sophisticated than those of Takahashi’s better-known predecessor in geometrical design, Isamu Noguchi and his contemporary, Shigeru Ban. Ban has produced buildings using paper cylinders, but is constrained to using only developable surfaces (with zero Gaussian curvature). Takahashi seeks to escape from this and is exploring ways of manufacturing sheets of various materials with hyperbolic curvature. As with Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, where the curvature is spherical, the major problem is in joining the sheets elegantly.