This summer, a team of students gathered at the Hunan University school of Architecture in China, for a Digital Architecture Laboratory project. The team’s challenge was to use digital technology to solve for the program, designing a structure that provided shade, and fit within an approximately 10-by-10-by-20-foot area. The solution was a beautiful sculptural plywood canopy. Architects from the university, UNstudio and Zaha Hadid Architects participated with the students to create their concept for an exterior waiting area, providing shade under the canopy.
Design in the digital age provides a freedom to explore complex compositions of form. Certainly historically plans have been drawn by hand to document intricate built elements, but not with the speed, accuracy or opportunity to study the three dimensional characteristics so completely. Even so, nothing replaces the need to build and mock up sculptural elements in the process of study. Utilizing the accuracy of digital design tools and laser cutting , the canopy’s design team assembled each piece by hand using plywood, steel, tensile cable mesh and fasteners.
“The canopy is supported by six L-shaped steel sections anchored to a wall. To these are attached a set of six curving, laser-cut plywood ribs, which are cross-braced by additional ribs running parallel to the ground. Tensile steel mesh is fastened to this underlying grid, providing netting to which the hexagonal plywood panels could be attached. Made with off-the-shelf hardware pieces assembled into a customized circular joint, the fasteners allow each hexagon to be tuned by hand, ensuring panels are precisely positioned on the x, y, and, z axes”.
I embrace the opportunities for precision and accuracy that digital tools offer, while standing firm on the need to built and create by hand. This seems an excellent example of how old and new processes can come together to create beautiful, functional solutions.
Excerpts, Images and story source found here.