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Experiments in Engineered Bent Plywood Architecture: Amplifying the senses on the periphery of Helsinki

Part 1 Project 2013
Marina Maria Fernández Vallés
University of East London, UK
The project investigates how established modes of craftsmanship with an inherent understanding of materiality could inform emerging timber fabrication technologies in architecture.

This material research is applied directly to the design of a building for a ‘live’ client, the Finish Forrest Research Institute (Metla) in Helsinki. In conversation with the client, investigations are developed in a number of scales beginning with the construction of a 1.1 bent plywood prototype and leading to a large scale 1.20 model of the proposed building. In doing so the project explores how the structural and physical capabilities of wood as a material can directly inform the design of a building, rather the material fitting into some pre-established design. By working with the material intimately, design decisions are based on how the building feels or how it is made and not just on how it looks.

The work of established master-builder Alvar Aalto is used as a reference. In particular his furniture using laminated bent ply wood technology for Artek. Ideas are developed by visiting the Artek Factory in Finland.

For the 1.1 prototype CNC milling is utilized to create an accurate mould that will ensure precise multidirectional twisting and lamination. The modular assembly system uses repetition and bending to create a rigid and seamless 3D wooden skin.

This skin is further developed for the design of Metla’s Library, Lecture Hall and Birdwatching facility in the AaltoUniversity Campus adjacent to the nature preservation area of Laajalahti. The site, which is renowned for its birdwatching, is a crossroads with a variety of users; university students, families, sports enthusiasts and bird watchers. The building encourages relationships between users and unlike the existing university buildings has a more symbiotic relationship to the site. The engineered timber skin wraps around the building creating an open envelope that invites the light and landscape into the interior. The design explores the auditory component of birdwatching, which involves listening to bird species since many are more easily identified by ear.

The proposal is part of Masterplan creating a greater integration of the surrounding landscape with new and existing campus facilities.

Marina Maria Fernández Vallés


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