Intersective Laminates

The ambitions of this project were two-fold: first, to demonstrate how a very thin engineered surface of wood veneer could span unsupported thanks to its new-found stiffness, and second, to explore how the spontaneous performative responses of materials could play a role in catalyzing architectural form. The project began by extrapolating the technique of stacked lamination, whereby thin pieces of wood that have been bent into a certain position are laminated upon one another. This strategy not only endows the resulting combination with stiffness much greater than the sum of its parts, but also maintains the form-found shape that emerged from the lamination process. Thus, a series of Maple veneer components were designed such that each one’s calibrated laminations prompt an approximate bending and twisting behavior. The components were then aggregated in order to create a stiff, larger surface, whose macro-twists and curves arise from the accumulated behavior of each of its parts. At the heart of this project lies the notion that the not-fully-predictable behavior of materials under pressure can in fact productively contribute to the generation of the final form. Rather than requiring each component and the overall surface to match the predetermined metrics of some computer model, here a kind of ‘soft control’ was used which allowed the uniqueness of each piece, the so-called deficiencies, and the spontaneous results of aggregation to have a say in the final result. Indeed, by their very natures materials offer us a certain amount of elasticity for responding to their conditions of deployment. Instead of working with them as if they were fixed, ideal, abstract, and prismatic shapes, we could actively allow them to play out some of these intrinsic properties under conditions of stress. This project unfolded with the strong belief that these kinds of differences and deflections can, if harnessed correctly, play a significant and productive role in architectural undertakings

Performative Wood Studio (Visiting Prof. A. Menges)
Etien Santiago, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 2009