Soft Connections

Inspired by Polynesian ornamental roundwood lashed joinery, this research investigates the characteristics and repercussions of rope-bound timber joinery as an alternative to metal fastenings and timber-cut joints in contemporary architecture. Unlike the latter two, bound joinery requires minimal material subtraction (averting oversizing of components) and has the capability to disperse stress rather than concentrate these at points of connection.

Findings drawn from physical tests and digital explorations of structural analysis and rope behaviour simulations guided the development of the final built prototype though the geometrical configuration of the structure materialized from a responsive on-site assembly process rather than from computer models. Reacting to embodied notions of space, balance and context, a parasitic lightweight structure emerged off a living host tree. Roundwood compression struts bound with rope around nodes multiplied, filling the space. A later stage of intricate binding reinforced weaknesses by adding further tension.

Rope’s fluid nature led to a fluid process and structure, fluid too in its moments of turbulence. Soft connections afforded a non-imposing relationship with timber elements allowing it to retain its eccentricities rather than be homogenised. In the end, binding timber structures into being challenges conventional architecture workflows beyond the physical realm of datums and tooling. It beseeches an archetype that stands opposite to the familiar building blocks.

Project Film

Carolina M. R. S. Menezes

Martin Self (Programme Director)
Zachary Mollica (Specialist Lecturer)
Jean-Nicolas Dackiw (Course Tutor + Robotics Developer)
Jack Draper (Make Tutor)

Hooke Park Team
Charlie Corry Wright (Workshop Manager)
Christopher Sadd (Head Forester)
Edward Coe (Technical Coordinator)

Year: 2017