Free Form Steambending
Research into free form steam bending – curving and twisting slender beech laths into complex predefined forms. The project was developed by MArch students through iterative cycles of material and digital experimentation to refine a workflow in which a 3D scanned physical model could be digitally mapped, geometrically defined and converted to control data for a cable-controlled bending jig.
The jig evolved from early experiments into cable-deformed structures and the material optimisation of bending force and torsion application. Its final iteration consists of a cubic frame that anchors eight winch-controlled cables whose lengths define the position and orientation, in five degrees of freedom, of the lath top and thus the lath’s curved geometry.
A key aspect of the project’s workflow was the ability to 3D scan a 1:10 model and extract lath centreline geometries through scripting that enabled the pavilion’s elements to be fully geometrically defined. This approach opens the possibility of designing through physical modeling only, of forms that would be very difficult to sculpt digitally.
The pavilion shown deploys 140 unique laths created through this process from beech timber sourced directly from Hooke Park. Its design emphasises inhabitants’ experience of the flowing effect of continuous, tangentially connected elements.