The 2×4 stud has long been relegated to the hidden cavities of suburban walls, perpetually distanced sixteen inches from his brethren. Balloon and platform construction methods have left the architectural industry with an extremely limited understanding of the 2×4, with many viewing it disdainfully as the lowest form of structure. In this era of space-age materials, few seem to recognize the potential in this abundant and affordable board, let alone historic construction methods.
Meet Alexander Watchman. A student at the GSD with years of experience running industrial grade CNC equipment, and millions of dollars worth of machinery at his disposal. While clearly capable of swooping and daring parametric creations, his Danish heritage calls out to remind him of the elegance in simplicity. While many trends are pushing emergent architecture even further from the layperson, Alexander is making architecture accessible to backyard America.
In reconsidering the 2×4 stud, Alexander has developed a pavilion that can be built without the use of any power tools, let alone computer controlled machinery. Even more impressive, this structure can be assembled by hand without the use of hardware; gravity alone forces these members into position. The DaVilion, as it is called, is based on a construction method developed by Leonardo DaVinci. Originally intended to be used for temporary bridges, Alexander adapted the geometry to create a much more dramatic arch, and allowed for individual sections to be assembled indefinitely to create any length of DaVilion desired.
As a proof of concept, he built one in his own yard over the course of three days, using only a hammer, chisel, and saw to cut all the necessary parts. Because he chose to use the simple 2×4, the cost of the entire structure, including the fabric shell and tools for construction, was under $400. While this could undoubtedly be constructed more quickly with the use of power tools, the low cost, and the ability to construct using only hand tools makes this possibly the most accessible self-built architectural system that exists.
The 2×4 is the most plentiful and affordable construction material in America today, and will be for years to come. In order for emerging architecture to grace our landscape, and not simply the pages of blogs, we must reconsider this material for its embedded potential. As has often been the case in the past, the best designers of the coming era will not require exotic materials to create their masterpieces, they will instead display their prowess by offering us fresh insight into the potential of our most common and humble materials. Here’s to you, 2×4 stud.