Integrated material practice in free-form timber structures

Publikation: Bog / Antologi / Afhandling / RapportPh.d.-afhandling

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The advent of digital tools and computation has shifted the focus of many material practices from the shaping of material to the shaping of information. The ability to process large amounts of data quickly has made computation commonplace in the design and manufacture of buildings, especially in iterative digital design workflows. The simulation of material performance and the shift from models as representational tools to functional ones has opened up new
ethods of working between digital model and physical material.

Wood has gained a new relevance in contemporary construction because it is sustainable, renewable, and stores carbon. In light of the climate crisis and concerns about overpopulation, and coupled with developments in adhesives and process technology, it is returning to the forefront of construction. However, as a grown and heterogeneous material, its properties and behaviours nevertheless present barriers to its utilization in architecturally demanding areas.

Developments in adhesives and production technology have changed the paradigm of wood construction from subtraction to aggregation with the introduction of engineered wood products (EWPs) and glue‐laminated timber (glulam). This allows the composition of glue‐laminated timber assemblies that can be tailored for specific applications and can therefore respond to specific performance requirements. However, the integration of the properties, material behaviours, and production constraints of glue‐laminated assemblies into early‐stage architectural design workflows remains a challenging specialist and inter‐disciplinary affair.

This research examines the design and fabrication of glue‐laminated timber structures and seeks a means to link industrial timber fabrication with early‐stage architectural design through the application of computational modelling, design, and an interrogation of established timber production processes. A particular focus is placed on large‐scale free‐form glue‐laminated timber structures due to their high performance demands and the challenge of exploiting the bending properties of timber. By proposing a computationally‐augmented material practice in which design intent is informed by material and fabrication constraints, the research aims to discover new potentials in timber architecture.

This research is a partnership between CITA (Centre for IT and Architecture) at KADK, Dsearch ‐ the digital research lab at White Arkitekter that examines the integration of computational design strategies within multi‐disciplinary
architectural practice ‐ and Blumer Lehmann AG ‐ a leading Swiss timber contractor that specializes in the planning, development, and delivery of complex timber structures. This partnership positions the project between contrasting realms of architectural practice, design modelling, and industrial timber production. The project methodology draws on embedded secondments at both industrial partners, material prototyping, and the interplay between design modelling and fabrication in a multi‐scalar approach.

The central figure in the research is the glulam blank ‐ the glue‐laminated near‐net shape of large‐scale timber components. The design space that the blank occupies ‐ between sawn, graded lumber and the finished architectural component ‐ holds the potential to yield new types of timber components and new structural morphologies. Engaging with this space therefore requires new interfaces for design modelling and production that take into account the affordances of timber and timber processing.

The research finds that the encoding of timber properties and production constraints into lightweight modelling tools can speed up the modelling of free‐form timber structures and provide valuable insights into the consequences of design decisions for downstream fabrication. This can provide the basis for building a convincing case for a free‐form timber project and for lowering risk at very early design stages. However, the research also finds that additional non‐computational processes such as the brokering of information and interdisciplinary communication are still required. The research further finds that the introduction of digital sensing systems within production processes and a challenging of the sequencing and linear nature of timber processing can yield novel types of glue‐laminated morphologies that are different and geometrically more complex than existing standard glue‐laminated products. Along with the computational workflows to model them, these offer new perspectives in what future timber architecture can be and what kinds of spaces it can engender.

The contribution of this research is a framework for a material practice that integrates processes of computational modelling, architectural design, and timber fabrication and acts as a broker between domains of architectural design and industrial timber production. The research identifies four different notions of feedback that allow this material practice to form.
Antal sider451
StatusUdgivet - 2020

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