“Bionics is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology” 1
Material in architecture is part of the repertoire for invention. The architect defines space and experience with material and the understanding of the material media is critical to the finesse of the built form. The ability to invent with any material is based on the understanding of and experimentation with that media. Historically in architecture, developments in the technologies of materials serve as catalysts for new languages of architecture. The palette with which the architect designs is material based and the material’s qualities of texture, colour, light reflectance, density of arrangement, permeability and feel to the touch can simultaneously provide a space with mood, order, envelope, and structure.
Timber on the West Coast has played a large role in the development of its architectural language – the West Coast Modern architecture uses predominantly timber post and beam to create its relationship between interior and exterior and its connection to the landscape. Moving into our contemporary culture, we move to a more fragmented and heterogeneous architecture heavily influenced by digital tools. The research question was: what innovations can we bring to timber and how might this affect the language of architecture in our region?
In this studio the students investigated the material timber – not limited to the pure and singular but looking at a more heterogenous interpretation that will attempts to create a ‘bionic timber’.
In addition to material investigation, the potentials of digital modeling, simulation and fabrication provide the architect with a bionic ability to gain understanding and manipulate materials. The alternate space of the digital used simultaneously with the tangible world provides another realm in which to experiment both limited and unlimited by material. The ability to speculate on the material uses and the understanding of the material itself is enhanced by the digital and this realm then brought back to the physical, even iterating and learning and experimenting from the iterations. As such, representation in this studio will be expanding our experience with the parametric, using Grasshopper in Rhino as well as any other plug-ins which become relevant to the project.
Hybridizing or modifying the timber structure and engaging the power of parametric tools leads to architectural speculations on a new architecture for the west coast.
1. Wikipedia. ‘Bionics’. Online encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bionics. Accessed 13 Dec 2012.
Images courtesy of Achim Menges, ICD Stuttgart, Patkau Architects and the author