Basalt Columns is a generative drawing that simulates the formation of columnar basalt columns in nature.
I explored the formation of basalt columns for my DRAW project in 4.101: Exploring Design: Thinking through Making, where we were tasked with creating generative drawings that follow the behavior of a natural precedent.
Users are able to click on the generative drawing to simulate the twisting and morphing of basalt columns caused by water flowing into the cracks.
When lava settles on a surface and slowly cools down, a geometric pattern appears: long hexagonal columns of basalt rock that stretch into the sky. These pillars are a result of a phenomenom known as columnar jointing. As the lava that forms into basalt cools, it contracts.
As the lava cools there is a temperature gradient, that is, the top of the lava flow will be cooler than the bottom. The fracture pattern that forms at the cooling surfaces will tend to be propagated down the lava as it cools, forming long, geometric columns.
At the beginning of the cooling process, contraction stressing in the top layer of the solidified lava causes secondary cracks to meet existing ones at nearly right angles. Orthogonal cracks follow from the fact that they lead to the highest energy release.
While the cracking pattern propagates down the cooling lava, the junction angles begin to change towards 120°, leading to a hexagonal pattern.
Check out my full research on the topic.
In my final generative drawing, I played with the idea of the viewer being underground and the basalt columns growing down towards them.
I specifically focused on perspective in a 2D drawing, the infinite & random generation of the hexagon columns, and user interaction (clicking) to transform the columns.
Check out my code & play with my Basalt Columns generative drawing.