The Wooden Waves is an architectural installation suspended in the 17 and 71 Newman Street entrance spaces of BuroHappold Engineering’s London offices to provide a visual link between the two. This functional art piece celebrates global engineering practice BuroHappold’s multiple innovations in the field of complex gridshell and other timber structures and was designed in collaboration with Mamou-Mani Architects and BuroHappold. The structure was made at the architect’s fabrication laboratory in London, The FabPub and represents the rise of a new kind of architecture in which the designer is also the “maker”.
The components of The Wooden Waves form sinuous streams folded into unexpected configurations through an open-source and innovative digital fabrication technique of “lattice-hinge-formation”: This is a parametric pattern of laser-cut lines that alters the global properties of plywood sheets making them locally more flexible and thus controlling the 3D form without significant supporting framework. The lattice hinge method is a development of the traditional timber bending technique, using the kerf (beam-width) of the laser to form torsional springs within the material.
The modules diffuse light through the opening of the cuts when bent and also absorb sound and stabilise temperature through acoustic and phase-changing layers integrated into the design.
More than a hundred prototypes were tested to inform the digital model and master the curvature of the final piece which forms a seamless, soft and continuous stream.
The supports of the modules were generated through a digital process called “Topological Optimisation” in which force flows are assessed and un-used material is removed. They hold the patterned plywood sheets in their current forms through a male/female connection requiring no glue.
The Wooden Waves installation makes use of flat, stock plywood from an FCC certified supplier, demonstrating that complex forms may be achieved through application of innovative engineering and architectural technology to a sustainable, transportation-optimised material. The piece is left untreated, showing the natural form of the engineered timber..