Conceptual Joining. Wood Structures from Detail to Utopia.
Can a materialized joint become the origin of an aesthetic of architectural space? Besides its obvious ecological advantages,
wood has a significant artistic potential and structural intelligence. Its fibrous directional structure — being able to handle
multiple forces when activated correctly — offers a vast potential for complex performative geometries derived from and optimized
to material logic. Furthermore, it is a dynamic material that visually transforms and interacts with its environment. It has
a specific inherent logic that creates a productive tension between designer, material and user. Looking back in history,
some of the most relevant joining techniques critically influenced specific aesthetics and cultural articulation in the use
of wood. For example, traditional Japanese joinery takes advantage of wood’s natural structure and behavior, Michael Thonet‘s
pioneering work on bentwood in Vienna introduced new aesthetics of lightweight curvature to furniture and design.
Besides the work of key players in Asia, North America and Europe from the likes of Shigeru Ban, Kengo Kuma, Michael Green,
Peter Zumthor and others, a material based approach is re‐established in avantgarde digital design as well. Researchers at
institutes such as the EPFL Lausanne, the ETH Zurich and the ICD/ITKE Stuttgart are starting to use the material properties
of wood to inform parametric models for the design of experimental structures. Apart from theoretical research our work attempts
to develop a joining culture that leads to a broader framework of concepts and visions.
The understanding of crafting is used to influence methods and tools from which we aim to derive new design tendencies. Experimentation
on traditional joining techniques get enhanced by parametric computer control and contemporary tools of fabrication. Specific
topics of investigation will include the analysis of material properties on various levels and scales as well as mechanical
and chemical joints within frameworks of structural members. The resulting strategies are then developed into larger‐scale
configurations, structures that can provide usable architectural systems and perceivable spaces.
From this material‐oriented method of designing, we aim to derive enhanced modes of contemporary articulation of wooden structures
in order to achieve coherent systems. Working on multiple scales, we intend to create objects and structured spaces that manifest
in typologies in between furniture and building. This process is intended to become accessible through an interactive “physical
blog”. By “posting” research results on exhibition platforms we expose them to the public on a regular basis in a testing
mode and to allow discussions to arise with experts from the field. At three key moments the research work will accumulate
in installations of various scales at different locations in Europe and the United States.
By promoting handcraft towards a topical method of production, qualities of intuition, the subconscious and unpredictable,
we develop typologies and configurations of a materialist nature.
Project Leader: Christoph Kaltenbrunner
Mentors: Anja Jonkhans, Karin Raith
Researchers: Lukas Allner, Daniela Kröhnert, Clemens Preisinger, Philipp Reinsberg, Mechthild Weber