Advanced Synthesis Options Studio: TIMBER

Joshua Bard | View RECENT Syllabus

Students develop custom robotic tools, fixtures, and motion control for custom timber joinery | Kevyn McPhail, José Petierra, Tony Zhen (B.Arch 2015) 

Timber: Augmented Wood Construction forefronts the need for resourcefulness in contemporary architectural practice. The course positions a renewed interest in wood construction (an ecologically sane material appropriate for many building types) relative to emerging technologies in robotically assisted fabrication. As designers recoup this traditional building material emerging digital technologies are poised to re-frame the what, why, and how of timber construction. In particular the course investigates robotic steam bending, where a robot’s ability to shape custom framing members and assemble unique parts, is leveraged to construct complex material arrays. Labs, Lectures, and design projects emphasize tactile investigation, building at one to one, and introduce the fundamentals of robotic motion and tooling protocol.

Timber in the City: STEAM PLAZA (S16) | Shannon Earnest, Kendra Ho, Cy Kim, Ara Lee (B.Arch 2016, 2017)

Physical prototype of truss module, with details of truss assembly

Carolina Tamayo (B.Arch 2017)

Axonometric diagram of bent wood truss assembly

Studio Themes

Resource: Contemporary architectural design is in a constant state of techno-flux. The means and methods of contemporary architectural production face mounting ecological imperatives. Dexterity: perhaps the architect’s most valuable resource. 

Imperfection: The use of natural material always entails reckoning with irregularities. Imperfection forces a loss of control (on the part of the designer) that standardized industrial building materials tend to eradicate, favoring instead predictable behavior. Timber asks students to consider material imperfection as an inherent and generative part of the design process.   

Tectonics: This studio biases the careful articulation of the architectural frame. Here the frame conditions space, encourages structural performance, and articulates the part(s) to the whole through considered detailing. 

Deformation: Steam bending natural hardwoods produces complex forms without wasteful subtraction of material or the addition of toxic adhesives.  The technique also suggests exciting architectural  possibilities for large span structures through bending active systems.