Play with Plywood

In the fall 2015, for exploring the notion of three-dimensional structures, students in freshman design studios in Department of Architecture at Texas A&M University were asked to design Surface Active Arches by using plywood. One of the most significant discoveries made by students working on these Surface Active Arch Design projects was that changing the materials they used also changed their final forms; their forms were not driven simply by geometry, but also by material properties. Despite the widespread development and adoption of three-dimensional (3D) modeling software that allows designing complicated shapes virtually, physical construction of such complicated shapes are still an important problem. One of the significant challenges is that freshman students do not have software expertise and fabrication knowledge and skills. The developable surfaces, which can be made out of thin sheets of flat materials by rolling these sheets without stretching, are useful for physical construction of complicated shapes. Flat sheets are also excellent materials for teaching design of complicated architectural shapes since they can simply be cut using laser cutters, which are one of the most available digital fabrication tools in school of architectures. Moreover, using widely available flat sheets such as plywood panels can significantly reduce manufacturing costs.