One Main (Office) by raphael crespin
2015 - 2016, Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner
The project displaces the combinatorial logic of ready-made components typical of late-industrial process for a seamless and non-standard protocol of customized fabrication. A formal aesthetic emerges from these processes , imbuing the design with a curvilinear continuity at a detail and spatial level.
An office refurbishment that relentlessly deploys numeric command machining of sustainable plywood to evidence the versatility and efficiency available via CAD-CAM design-build processes.
Design Challenges
The intention was to offer a reduced carbon footprint whilst celebrating both a new formal virtuosity and a radical level of detail finesse. Effectively this allows the architect to fully customize all elements of the building, placing material in space with full authorial control (for the first time since industrial components became standard). Other than sprinklers, lights, glass and hinges, the substance of the interior architecture was realized via this unitary material/fabrication logic, with a high degree of prefabrication. The early sketch design grasped the potential for plastic control of the spatial and detail definition allowable within a fully CAD-CAM environment. The client asked that the work chairs be purchased for liability reasons, but all shelves, desks, benches, storage units, etc were accepted for direct fabrication in plylam via the same method. Ultimately we devised automated algorithms for generating actual milling files, passing from design to fabrication seamlessly and with high tolerances and extremely low percentages of error. The developed design was nuanced parametrically in celebration of the indifference of the CNC machine to formal complexity. The entire project was nested onto 1200 4ft x 12ft plywood sheets, and milled using a small 3-axis CNC router, which effortlessly carved the ply sections according to our prescribed ‘weeping’ tool paths. Well over a million linear feet of cut were issued, yet the machinic process was essentially error-free and highly accurate. Assembly proved relatively straightforward given the accuracy of the milling, and we enjoyed the elegance of the emerging forms. The project was nuanced down to the smallest detail, such as the ventilation grille for the computer boxes being inflected to provide a handle to open the door; or the milling of custom mathematical surfaces for each office; even the door handles were carved as customized elements, proving cheaper than stainless steel D- handles! We aimed at formal coherence at macro and micro scales, such that an inflection in the ceiling was echoed in the benches and carried down to the sinuous lines of the door handles. Functional needs such as ventilation grilles and shrouds for the bright LED lights gave a detail finesse to the ceiling; whilst focal elements such as the conference table or directors’ desks were plastically formed to permit electrical data outlets in the spine, and were embellished mathematically according to parameters of ‘tension’ and ‘irony’. Quite literally, the material substance of each space was nuanced according to the character and mood of each client during the fabrication period!
Production Technology
All visible elements of the design, except the glass, have
 been fabricated as stacked sectional elements cut from flat plywood sheets by a single 3-axis numeric command milling machine.
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