Nouvelles formes d’architecture en bois

Februar 26 – May 30, 2010


29 April 2010
Pekka Heikkinen
professor, Aalto University, Finlande

11 May 2010
Andrea Deplazes
architect, professor D-ARCH, ETH Zürich


Research conducted in EPFL’s Laboratory for Timber Constructions (IBOIS) explores in depth the relationship between engineering sciences and architecture, using wood as a construction material. IBOIS is in the Institute of Civil Engineering in EPFL’s School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and interfaces with architecture via a studio at the Master’s level in the school’s Architecture section. Research and teaching, presented in an in-depth manner in the “Timber Project” exhibit, focus on issues surrounding the tangible realization of complex forms and free-form surfaces.

IBOIS aims to provide construction solutions that can be successfully disseminated throughout a construction market, meaning that the realization of non-conventional structures at a reasonable cost must be possible. Developing specific, specialized IT tools appears increasingly necessary. Our research focuses on developing and combining software at various different levels, from generating complex shapes to controlling and sizing finite elements, as well as operating computerized numerical control machines (CNCs).

People think of wood as a “traditional material”, which is advantageous for legitimizing advanced research into complex shapes and free-form surfaces. Taking an interest in complex geometries from a (timber) construction point of view, and not just a morphogenic point of view, can signify taking a critical step back from blob architecture’s “stylized mode” phenomena.

Many recent buildings designed in the formalized mode of Blob Architecture demonstrate a complete lack of awareness or disregard for sustainability issues, either in the choice of construction materials, or in the difficulty of meeting their energy requirements and the high cost of material handling. In contrast, timber construction has a promising future in the face of global sustainable development challenges.

But these challenges also involve the question of architectural form. How can we incorporate a formal and technological process of innovation into the long-term goals of sustainability? Renewing construction techniques and formal repertoire related to the use of wood, while affirming the “traditional” values of timber construction, can contribute to encouraging an increase in the use of wood in contemporary construction.

What is the relationship between “pure” and “applied” (or even “curiosity-driven” and “problem-oriented”) research in the fields of civil engineering and architecture? What is the relationship between the scientific dimension of architectural research and project work as “artistic practice”? IBOIS’ goal as a research center is to be a laboratory where  experimentation is practiced in order to achieve the tangible production of new structural forms.

An exhibit of wood construction by ARCHIZOOM and EPFL’s IBOIS Laboratory.

Curator :
Fred Hatt

Director of IBOIS
Professor Yves Weinand

Exhibition guide

The exhibition