La Voûte de LeFevre | Matter Design Studio

La Voûte de LeFevre is the result of a call for help. This call is sim­ple. It asks archi­tects to cut it out with the addic­tion to the thin. It begs for an inter­ven­tion, which came in the form of a one-year fel­low­ship ded­i­cated to exper­i­ment­ing with this request.

La Voûte de LeFevre by Matter Design Studio

Knowlton School of Architecture, The Ohio State University | 2012

mate­r­ial: Baltic Birch Ply­wood | size: 15′ X 20′

When posited the task of build­ing a full-scale project with heavy and vol­u­met­ric process, two obsta­cles emerged — assur­ance and ambi­tion. How can we guar­an­tee a vault with sig­nif­i­cant mass will stand, and how can we build a project of such vol­u­met­ric scale on bud­get and sched­ule? The answers existed in these two words — com­pu­ta­tion and fabrication.
The vault is com­puted with a solver-based model that elic­its a compression-only struc­ture, from a non-ideal geom­e­try. The model requires a fixed geom­e­try as input, and opens aper­tures in order to vary the weight of each unit. This dynamic sys­tem re-configures the weight of the units based on a vol­u­met­ric cal­cu­la­tion. If unit A con­tains twice the vol­ume of unit B, then unit A weights twice as much. It requires that the mate­r­ial of the project be con­sis­tent, and solid (hol­low does not work). The com­puted result pro­duces a project that will stand ‘for­ever’ as there is zero ten­sion in the sys­tem pre­cisely because of the weight and vol­ume of the project, and not in spite of it.
The vault is pro­duced with Baltic Birch ply­wood. The ply­wood is sourced in three quar­ter inch thick sheets await­ing the ‘thick­en­ing’. Each cus­tom unit is dis­sected and sliced into these thick­nesses, cut from the sheets, and then phys­i­cally re-constituted into a rough vol­u­met­ric form of their final geom­e­try. These roughs are indexed onto a full sheet and glued, vac­uum pressed, and re-placed onto the CNC (com­puter numer­i­cally con­trolled) router.
On the topic of ambi­tion, this project is pro­duced on a 5-axis Onsrud router. The carv­ing bits are larger than life. The tool-paths uti­lized are ded­i­cated to remov­ing the most mate­r­ial with the least effort. These tool-paths are called swarfs. Instead of requir­ing the end of the bit to do the work, this path uses the edge of the bit to remove much more mate­r­ial. Because this method traces the geom­e­try with a line as opposed to point, it requires the units be con­sti­tuted of ruled sur­faces. This require­ment results in the conical-boolean geom­e­try. As these units tran­si­tion down to the col­umn (below the cal­cu­la­tion as the columns con­tain only ver­ti­cal thrust vec­tors) the rhetoric of the units con­tinue as if to say the weight is increasing.
The pur­pose of this research is not to revert to this ‘anti­quated’ archi­tec­ture. It is intended to re-engage in a prob­lem unfa­mil­iar to our con­tem­po­rary cul­ture. This unfa­mil­iar ter­rain pro­duces a new mon­ster. An archi­tec­ture that is some­how ancient yet con­tem­po­rary, heavy yet light, famil­iar yet alien.
– Matter Design