wood cycles + convivial tools

Tools for Conviviality, the studio

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University of Virginia School of Architecture   Option Studio   Spring 2011: Tools for Conviviality

Lionel Devlieger / Rotor +  Ghent University, Department of Architecture and Urbanism

Lucia Phinney / University of Virginia School of Architecture

The discovery of free resources as a by-product of an advanced technological society offers designers the opportunity to explore innovative ideas, forms, and processes that, in addition, can act as a catalyst for radical social criticism.  This studio will direct public attention to 21st century wood waste for its compelling appearance, as an element in a cyclic process, and as a most useful material for experimentation and full-scale fabrication.  Projects 1+2 (4 weeks) will be a fast-paced re-visualization of the creative and sustainable potential for wood waste through research. Project 3 (9 weeks) Following an orientation to conventional + CNC/parametric wood fabrication techniques, this project will build on the initial research with the design and construction of a full-scale “convivial” prototype for a local client using salvaged wood and/or waste wood products.


Project 1 The Wood-cycle in Construction: a Closed Loop?

Project 2 Virginia im Frühling

Project 3 Tools for Conviviality


1.  In the macro terrain of The Wood-Cycle in Construction: a Closed Loop? students will track flows of wood that move through Peter van der Linde’s Materials Recovery Facility  at Zion’s Crossroads VA, and on to the end of the cycle as biomass. These pathways and sub-loops will include volumes of material flowing through logging operations and production facilities for lumber, manufactured wood products, furniture, modular components, etc., as well as the conveyances and practices that connect one process to another.  Students will query the constraints that could hamper a closed loop wood cycle.  On the other hand, we will focus on opportunities to salvage wood debris along these paths:  how it is or might be done, and what possible use this salvaged wood can be put to. Through sketches, process diagrams, photographs, maps, and fact sheets, we will assemble a complete and objective view of contemporary practices in the building and landscape industries in Virginia, as well as an unprejudiced account of the potential to make wood a real ‘cradle to cradle’ product.

2.. The related full-scale study, Virginia im Frühling, is inspired by Rotor’s 2008 German exhibition, Deutschland im Herbst. http://rotordb.org/projects/2008_Deutschland_i_H/  Students will research industrial wood production sites selected from the coincident wood cycle study to discover waste products that are compelling for their appearance, their properties, their design potential, and for what they tell about the specific mode of production. This research will result in an installation of live samples, studio photographs of these samples, and process fold-down fact-sheets that will scrupulously describe both the production process and the resulting waste.

These two intersecting projects will form the content for a publication as well as a NAUG installation and gallery talk in March.

3. The title Tools for Conviviality is taken from a 1973 text by Ivan Illich, Austrian-born philosopher and critic of Western culture. Another crucial source of inspiration for this project will be the writings of Victor Papanek, Austrian-American designer and author of Design for the Real World (1971). Drawing on writings of both authors and using waste or salvaged wood, students will design and construct a small scale architecture, landscape or furniture piece that meets a specific need. A local commissioner for this piece will be recruited by the studio together with Lionel Devlieger and Lucia Phinney.

This project will incorporate a 2-3 week conventional + CNC/parametric fabrication orientation and training with the new SoA fabrication lab manager.    Work for this project is to be accomplished by teams of two students.


Lionel Devlieger is the 2011 Robertson Chair.  He holds a masters degree in Architecture and Civil Engineering as well as a doctorate in Architecture from Ghent University. His dissertation, On the Birth of Artifact: Architecture, Alchemy and Power in Late-Renaissance Florence, focuses on the work of Benedetto Varchi .  His impressively diverse and active practice encompasses teaching, fabrication, theory, and design.  He is a founding partner of Rotor.

Rotor http://rotordb.org   “is a team of designers and theorists based in Brussels and sharing an interest in the flux of materials through industry and construction.  On a practical level, Rotor handles the conception and realization of design and architectural projects. On a theoretical level, Rotor develops critical positions on material resources, waste, and reuse strategies through research, publications, writings and conferences.” Most recently, Rotor has designed the 2010 Belgian pavilion for the Venice Architecture Biennale.





Written by luciaphinney

January 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm

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