Archive for September, 2010

re-thinking material__simplicity


small prefab house


How many ways can a single material be applied to one structure?



project.1.2_the next phase

material exploration becomes a non-permanent PAVILION >> move from a CONCEPT to its MATERIALIZATION

_setting:  Ball State Campus


_questions to explore:

…how to define “non-permanent”

…what happens after its lifetime?

…how invasive is it in the context?

…how can one material create space+interaction+contemplation?

9.9.10 reviews

We had our first “informally formal” review session yesterday, which generated a variety of interesting ideas, responses, and “what if” conversations.

Here is a link to my presentation slides of my process and ideas:


My process was an evolution of the following:

_what is the history and past usage of bamboo?
_what are its current uses?
_a study of connection methods and joint types
_deconstruction and study of the bamboo shade
_re-assembly [part 1]
_looking to nature for inspiration, much like Antoni Gaudi did
_re-assembly [part 2]  “the loop,” adding to a chain or network of individual units
_re-assembly [part 3]  “finger joint”
_multiplicity + pattern
_movement + interactivity
_practical applications – furniture, wall structure, storage, building skins…


My investigation did not lead to a specific conclusion or answer.  Instead, it opened several possibilities depending on the scale of the material and the types of connections used, which I hope to explore further.  The next step would require setting some parameters for continued development.

I want to zoom in on a detail, perhaps the assembly joint, and study its patterns, effects on movement, structural integrity, effects on light, repetition, then zoom back out to a larger scale and application.  Another goal is to revisit the initial terms of the investigation.  Do they still apply at the conclusion?

Some general questions raised by the review discussions:

_is this an additive or subtractive design process?

_how does the system or piece touch the ground?

_how do the material’s inherent strengths or qualities apply to real-life needs?  what can be emphasized or played up?

_can you move up in scale with this material or do you need to study a new one also?

_are there metaphors or underlying symbolism in the material, the way it is used, or another application?

_how can a single material be both structure and skin?  how is it used differently in each case?

Presentation Slides (in case the PDF doesn’t work…technology doesn’t always agree with me)




Bamboo has historically been a staple in daily life activities on three continents for everything from building materials to food sources.  It has worked to overcome the stigma of a poor or working class material and emerged as both a contemporary and sustainable material.  It has the potential to become even more pervasive in the built environment as its properties and opportunities are further studied.  Current design trends could allow for a more direct connection between the producers of the material and a wide array of functions previously undeveloped in the less globally focused markets of the past.

Traditionally, bamboo is combined with a variety of other building materials in order to be used effectively.  However, new projects reveal its ability to be used alone in some applications.

Traditional Uses_

Common methods of assembly that feature the strengths and natural beauty of the material include structural formwork for weaving, columns, and stick-framing of truss-like elements.  Whole stalks are structural and split pieces can be overlapped and woven as secondary elements.

Fence: Bamboo is used as both the vertical structure and the woven component.

Bamboo Screen: The material is used in multiple widths to form the screen grid and the binding pieces that hold it together. This demonstrates the material's functionality and aesthetic value.

This Tea House demonstrates another simple assembly of bamboo woven together to form a shading screen.

Assembly Methods_

In the book Grow Your Own House, a range of techniques are presented on assembling individual pieces of bamboo into a larger structure or component.  Even though it is a type of wood, typical construction methods for wood cannot be used due to its potential to split or splinter.  The hollow tubes provide other opportunities for creating bolted, tied, threaded, or interlocking joints.  In this exploration, due to the scale of the strips of bamboo, I chose to work primarily with wrapped, tied, and woven connections.  At a larger scale, more detailed hardware connections could be tested, such as the metal fittings shown below.

Due to variations in the growth of individual stalks, strength must be tested constantly for safety.  Structural strength is also highly dependent upon the connection materials: twine, metal, rope, bamboo strips, and interlocking pieces.

Assembly methods presented in "Grow Your Own House"

Contemporary Forms_

In addition to studying historical functions, I have investigated new, modern uses for bamboo.  It ranges from new patterns for screens and shading to abstractions of space and interventions in more traditional spaces.  Contemporary assemblies often use variations of traditional fastening methods in conjunction with more curving forms.

A contemporary project by Renzo Piano uses simple assembly into a complex form.


The first studio project of the semester is on the outside the most simple statement, but it contains an infinite amount of inherent complexities:  Spend $10 or less on any material[s], explore the materials, and develop an architectural piece.

I found a bamboo window shade for $9 that appeared to have potential and began deconstructing it into its individual materials: 48″ bamboo sticks, string, nylon cord, plastic and metal fittings, and 2 large bamboo pieces.  These materials can be re-combined in a variety of ways to make new pieces.

Following are slides of the deconstruction and exploration process.  Bamboo is the primary material, used in conjunction with the string and some wire for more stability.

Deconstruction of materials

Process:  After separating the materials, I soaked the bamboo strips in water to make them more pliable [not doing so limits their flexibility and causes them to break easily].  I began exploring ways to bend and connect pieces in a variety of patterns and structures.

Exploration of materials

Exploration of materials

The two sets of interlocking pieces [what I’m calling the “double loop” and the “sliding finger joint”] will be pursued in more detail and developed further.