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′
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