In a movie filmed by Alice Masters for the Design Museum's annual Designers in Residence exhibition, Lawrence Lek explains how he created a modular system of plywood pieces that can be bent into objects including a stool and a pavilion.
Responding to the Design Museum's theme of "thrift", Lawrence Lek produced a modular system, called Unlimited Edition, which allows the same kit of parts to be adapted into different shapes and sizes.
"The pavilion I assembled for the Design Museum is hexagonal in plan and uses six pairs of modules, but you can also make two smaller triangular enclosures from the same pieces," he told Dezeen.
"I wanted to create the shapes from a single cut of the CNC router, in order to minimise costly machining time," he said. "The pieces can be cut by hand on a jigsaw using full-scale paper templates if no CNC machine is available – that's how I made the initial prototypes."
The structures are made from plywood, cable ties and leather cord – low-cost and readily available materials which don't require specialist suppliers.
Lek also bent the wood by hand in a warm water bath made out of leftover plywood and waterproofing material.
Rather than building in straight lines, Lek was inspired by softer shapes of Rorschach ink blots. "The fluid curves of the Rorschach ink blots make us recall the forms that we typically see in nature – animals, plants, insects, and landforms. I wanted to reflect this in the design of the modules, as objects that appear both artificial and natural, industrial and organic," he said.
The symmetry of the ink blots is also reflected in the plywood, which bends along the axis of its grain.
We previously published a movie about designer Yuri Suzuki's contribution to this year's Designers in Residence programme – a radio made from a circuit board shaped like London's Tube map and a set of puzzle pieces that form a circuit.
We've also featured a pavilion built from polygonal plywood plates and a table with a net-like base of modular bent plywood.
Above: photograph is by Rima Musa
Above: photograph is by Rima Musa
Photographs are courtesy of Lawrence Lek, except where stated.
Here's some more information from the designer:
Unlimited Edition by Lawrence Lek
Designer in Residence 2012 Commission at the Design Museum
Lawrence Lek is a sculptor and architect who experiments with processes of natural growth and industrial fabrication through sculptural objects and environments. His work employs modular structures which connect to create larger forms or experiential installations that define the visitor's awareness of the surrounding spaces.
For the Design Museum's Designer in Residence 2012 programme, Lawrence has created Unlimited Edition, a series of bent-plywood modules that combine to form objects and environments that users can customize, including a pavilion and seating. Referencing psychological Rorschach tests, which ask subjects to interpret unfamiliar inkblot shapes based on things they already know, Lawrence channelled the element of subjectivity into shaping the organic structures that compose the project.
Throughout the design process, Lawrence constructed numerous maquettes in paper and thin plywood to experiment with form before progressing to full-size pieces. Combining digital design techniques, such as computer controlled (CNC) routing and laser cutting with hand assembly, Lawrence can easily customize the modules to expand or contract. The full-size modules were made from a single cut of standard 8-feet tall plywood sheets, minimizing costly fabrication time. Each plywood module is soaked in water before it is bent and braced in place while it dries.
Working with the inherent symmetry of the material, which bends along the grain of the wood, Lawrence was able to achieve a consistent molding of modules. The shell-like shapes provided rigidity while allowing them to be stacked for transportation and storage. When erected they create uncanny forms, spaces and tool-like objects that invite the user to nurture individual responses within an artificial environment.
During the residency, Lawrence moved into a studio in the White Building, a new arts centre across the canal from the Olympic Park. He is currently evolving Unlimited Edition at two different scales - as a system for site-specific urban installations, and as prosthetic objects that modify both our bodies and mental awareness of surrounding Nature.