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The Naramata project
In close partnership with the University of British Columbia
The Naramata roof is located on a small organic farm on the east side of Lake Okanagan, BC. The Design-Build project explores CNC wood fabrication technologies for the design, fabrication, and construction of a small roof structure for farm use. The project includes research on properties of wood as a building material, wood joinery, and wood structures, as well as the design of the roof, a site survey, preparation of the construction site, fabrication of roof components, and the assembly of the wood structure at the site. The existing 30-year old roof structure at the project site was made of found materials and small pine beams. The old roof that was used as an outdoor kitchen for gathering, cooking and canning activities was demolished as part of the site preparation. In recent years, the existing roof structure had fallen into disrepair and no longer served as a central gathering space at the farm. The existing floor made of stone set in concrete with six vertical 6”x8” posts that formed the primary structural supports of the old roof are incorporated into the new design. The new wood roof structure with large table again offers a protected meeting and workplace for the farm community.
The research and design team participated in all phases of the design-build project from May to September 2007. Work on the project was conducted in collaboration with Cadwork Inc., Structurlam Products Ltd. in Penticton, BC, a structural engineer, and a wood fabrication consultant. Structurlam Ltd. provided access to wood fabrication facilities, a Hundegger K2 4-axis beam processor, and staff for the fabrication of roof components. Cadwork Inc. made Cadwork digital wood fabrication software available for the design of the roof structure and for the preparation of fabrication data for the project. BC WoodWorks! contributed to the coordination of the project, and Home Hardware in Penticton supported the project by providing affordable building materials.
The work on the roof project included introductions to Cadwork wood fabrication software and to the use of a CNC beam processor. Throughout the design process, the design team worked in collaboration with AnnaLisa Meyboom, a structural engineer, to coordinate and incorporate structural considerations. Maik Gehloff from the University of British Columbia Department of Wood Science worked with the design team on the design and developed digital models and data for the fabrication of the roof structure.
A particular focus of the project was the translation of the design concept developed using digital modeling and wood fabrication software into the built structure. The potential of digital modeling with variations of joints and roof configuration was translated into the built structure with the quality of the available building materials, sequence of assembly, and the level of craft as guiding and limiting factors in the building process. While the exchange with the engineering and wood fabrication consultants throughout the research and design phase of the project helped to anticipate issues arising during fabrication and construction, the assembly of the roof structure at the site highlighted distinctions between the spatial potential of digital modeling and fabrication techniques and the translation of design concepts into a built structure. Material tolerances, assembly sequences, and the accuracy of the digital fabrication process as well as the limitations of manual construction methods under site conditions constituted limiting factors for the project.
An expanded definition of ecological design emphasizes interdependency between new design methods and their particular context in material science, economy, and culture. These connected factors contribute to the complex ecology in which a project emerges. Using an expanded definition of ecological design, context-specific material expression and built form become significant references for architectural design and production. Modes of design and production such as digital media and fabrication technologies then play a
central role in design grounded in ecology.
The Naramata Roof Project explores distinctions between conceptual and spatial potential design and fabrication technologies and the actual application in design, fabrication, assembly, and construction considering material and site conditions. Mass-customization processes using digital design media and wood fabrication technology allow for the material and the time efficient translation of spatially complex designs. Variations of joints and building configurations that respond to site, program requirements, and available materials can be generated without compromising the efficiency of the fabrication process. The work for the Naramata Roof Project includes the use of a variety of media, fabrication, and construction methods. While highlighting the potential of digital wood fabrication technologies for the design and fabrication of context specific projects, the research illustrates effects of the translation from digital design media to building. During the design and building process, the particular conditions for the use of digital design media, wood fabrication software, wood fabrication technology, and for the assembly of the structure at the site, all contribute to the built project.
Through adaptation of the design concepts and methods to the consecutive phases of the design, fabrication, and building process, the potential and limitation of each stage became apparent. With that, the roof project- from concept to realization- serves to critically review the potential of digital wood fabrication methods to contribute to architecture specific to its context. Efficiency of design particular to local conditions and responsiveness of the design and building process to the specific conditions of the project are explored and reviewed.
The particular context of the Naramata Roof Project includes the conditions at the site, program requirements, available design and fabrication methods, building materials, and methods of assembly. As a group design and building project, exchange and interaction between members of the research team are also a central contributing factor. Quality of design and building depend directly on the skills of each participant. Coordination of abilities and interests becomes an important factor of the group collaboration. Ultimately, the use of technology and materials and the quality of the execution of the design and building phases depends on the ability to coordinate and incorporate available resources.