Wood working30.11.2016

Swiss designer highlights innovative and timeless maps

Wooden map of Zürich in 1944 by Robin Hanhart.

Wooden map of Zürich in 1944 by Robin Hanhart.

Topographic map of Moon made from KoskiPly birch thin plywood.

Topographic map of Moon made from KoskiPly birch thin plywood.

Laser Atelier is from Zurich and was created by the designer and illustrator Robin Hanhart. The Swiss studio specialises in creating unique laser-cut products such as topographic and historic maps but it also produces experimental globes from wood. Most of their wood products use KoskiPly, which they both laser engrave and cut. The topographic maps and globes, for instance, are built using 1-2 mm KoskiPly birch thin plywood.

“We create unique products thanks to a powerful laser cutter and versatile wood material”, says Robin, who decided to become involved with laser cutting after  becoming fascinated by it during his studies. He became convinced that it is a great tool, capable of providing wide range of possibilities to experiment with materials and prototype new ideas. 

Topographic map from Mars with oceans looks impressive.

Topographic map from Mars with oceans looks impressive.

The story behind Laser Atelier

Robin explained that his work is driven by his curiosity to work with both concepts and materials and that he enjoys challenging himself with new projects and ideas. The work process involves a lot of trial and error and the laser cutter is a very important tool in this process. It allows him to quickly produce prototypes of ideas but he can still sometimes spend hours experimenting to find the perfect settings. In addition, he has a fascination  for astronomy, topography and new places in general, which is why he often works with laser engraved maps, where he combines his love for graphics and laser cutting. Often, the maps are of space and it gives him the feeling that these places are at the same time both familiar and unknown. He is right now in the process of expanding his maps of the Moon and Mars, as the tools and data available are evolving all the time.

Versatile wood material

Robin had many options regarding the material to use for the laser cutting work, but he knew from the start that wood was the one he wanted to work with.

Because it is the most versatile building material I have. It can be cut, bent, engraved and painted. Wood has a character of its own and exploring the unique properties and limits of each wood type is challenging and rewarding. And finally, I love working with wood as a natural material and being a sustainable material is an important aspect as well. I wanted to build topographic maps with thin layers of wood for its natural look.”

“Koskisen birch thin plywood was the only real choice for this. I am impressed by the good and consistent quality of Koskisen plywood while it retains its characteristics. Koskisen birch plywood has become one of the most important materials in my workshop and I find new uses for it all the time. It’s the perfect material for my engraved wooden maps. It allows for consistent engraving and cutting of the wood and Finnish birch has warmth and an interesting grain that makes each map unique.” emphasises Robin.

Please find more information about Robin’s work here.