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Wood Proto-architecture I
Fall 2018
University of Virginia
ARCH 4010-11 / ALAR 8010: Research Studio
Ehsan Baharlou, Dr.-Ing. and Thomas Jefferson Visiting Professor Achim Menges

Wood Proto-architecture I: Integrating Design Computation and Materialization

“It is a question of surrendering to the wood, then following where it leads by connecting operations to a materiality, instead of imposing a form upon a matter.”

— A Thousand Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari


The advanced research studio “Wood Proto-architecture: Integrating Design Computation and Materialization” investigated the generative potential of material and fabrication agencies in [proto-]architecture. Considering these agencies within tectonic systems requires an understanding of material organization and fabrication systems in interaction with environmental effectiveness. This studio explored computational methods to amalgamate these active agencies into design processes. The aim was to explore integrative design computation, which unfolds specific material gestalt and related performative capacities without differentiating between processes of computational form generation and physical materialization. This integrative process is a prototypical exploration to study the emergence of a tectonic form.

The studio introduced students to the concept of integrative design computation in architecture. This concept is two-fold: developing material systems and exploring related fabrication tools. The proposed material system was wood, which has high performance and adaptation. Students investigated the anisotropic nature of wood to understand tectonic potentials of wood morphology in design processes. Concurrent with developing material systems, students explored the potential of digital fabrication tools, such as Industrial Robots or CNC machines, as a generative driver in design processes.

The synthesis of these two agencies was further explored by developing a computational design framework to minimize the gap between formation and materialization. To achieve this, students developed computational design strategies and conducted a series of small-scale experiments. Students then refined their experiments and applied them to prototyping a scaled tectonic installation. The studio was supported by the elective course “Introduction to Computational Design and Construction,” which introduced students to computational design methods and digital fabrication processes.

Selected Project

Self-Forming Hygrosensitive Tectonics | Developed by: Yin-Yu Fong, Kirk Gordon, Nicholas Grimes, Mengzhe Ye

Image Credit

M. Alvarez and E. Martínez, University of Stuttgart, 2016.