As you can see below, there have been many examples over time of people bending wood into seemingly unnatural forms.
All of the above examples were made with the intention of the end product as being a static thing. The properties of wood allow for the manipulation of the wood’s cells when heated and/or moistened. When the wood is heated and/or moistened it becomes very malleable allowing bending to take place where then it can be fastened in a mold until dry in order to keep the new bent shape. If the wood is removed from the form before it dries, the wood returns to its original shape. Other techniques of bending wood include Kerf-cutting (cutting channels side by side into the wood, leaving space for bending to occur) and laminating (gluing things sheets of wood together in a curve form).
When the flexible nature of wood is put to use in form, a whimsicality is expressed by nature of the material being forced in an alternative way. What happens if instead of forcing the wood into unnatural shapes, however, the flexible nature is used in a more natural way? The atmosphere shifts from high humidity to very dry over spans of time, sometimes throughout a day and most definitely during seasonal shifts… especially in Minnesota! Testing has been done using wood’s deformation due to humidity levels in very dynamic ways.
As we know, wood will bend under moisture and remain in a new shape if forced into the shape and dried, but if unfastened the wood will spring back into shape. Jason Payne of Hirsuta takes on the shingle in the design for a house. The shingles are attached to the façade unconventionally with grain perpendicular to what one would see in woodworking, grain oriented on the short axis.
This experiment allows the wood shingles to curl when dried out and flatten as they become wet. Movement in architecture has been a theme of the posts that I have touched on in the last three weeks, but what makes this example special is that power is not required for the movement to take place. Dynamism occurs with just the cooperation between wood and the climate around. Thinking about the flexi’ nature of wood in a more natural way opens doors to many possibilities for rain screen type cladding systems that could add much more interest to a building in a relatively simple and cost effective way.