The Collaboratory Assembly: Surface Performance

Presented by: Clay Odom, Tamie Gladd, Jen Wong

The ubiquitous banality of a partition wall is often what prompts clients to reach out for assistance from interior designers and interior architects. The simple question - what can we do with this large expanse? - was the impetus for exploration into the development of teams, methods and assemblies that work collaboratively to address and integrate considerations –from the acoustic functionality and indoor air quality, to questions of beauty- through systematized engagement with materials and methods as formal, surface, spatial, and effects producing agents.  

The goal of developing a synthesized approach to process and product required the formation of an integrated, collaborative team. The team was built consisting of interior designers/interior architects (ID/IA), along with a materials specialist, acoustical engineers, and an indoor air quality scientist. This holistic group engaged continually with each other during the process to share knowledge, insight and outcomes and to inflect the trajectory of the project as a whole.  

During prototyping preliminary lists of raw materials were surveyed and indexed for their inherent response to acoustics and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) as well as in regard to sourcing, workability, and assembly potentials. Studies yielded the beginning outline of material-oriented potentials which could be evaluated in regard to acoustics and IAQ, and subjectively. Wood veneer and wool felt were selected to maximize visual effect and acoustical performance while minimizing material impact. 

“The field describes the space of propogation, of effects.” Sanford Kwinter

Fundamentally, the processes and products emerging from these tests yielded potentials for synthesis which held both formal and functional implications. Creating a system, through which collaborative interactions of material, form, and technique were pushed, allowed for a re-framed notion of performance to emerge. Here performance was defined as integration of program and function simultaneously engaging ornamental and decorative potential.

Although limited, the material palette is rich in color and texture lending the surfacing system maximum potential for variation. Additional layers were developed in the natural pattern of the wood grain and wool fibers, as well as a perforation layer developed from the grain and subtracted from the wood veneer modules. The perforations create a secondary level of acoustical performance, covering more than twenty percent of the module surface. 

Perforation logics in consort with the local and aggregate articulation of the units, were derived initially as a response to acoustical considerations. Subsequent studies expanded on the logic of the perforated surface, and the space between units allowing for integrated lighting into the system. By further developing and integrating logics of surface, the general use of lamination as an operational method was advanced. The layered system readily accommodated the insertion of the individual veneer modules and produces maximized installation and compositional flexibility.
Finally, As a collaborative collection of methods and processes that help to organize everything from team make-up and design process to prototyping, fabrication, and installation- the system has the capacity to continue to evolve. Ultimately it is this synthetic, collaboratory capacity which may be the most important product of this work.

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