Wood working26.03.2018

Peter West’s project ‘Vienna without Organs’ gives thin plywood new life as evocative plywood models

Peter West utilises thin plywood in his scale models

Peter West utilises thin plywood in his scale models

Peter West made his architecture Masters project using 0.8 and 1.5mm thin plywood sheets to manufacture complex scale models.  These pieces reflect on the psychology of space and our experience of the city. According to him, plywood is a wonderful material with poetic possibilities. 

Peter West is an architectural designer based in London whose Masters project at the Bartlett was a subterranean hostel in Vienna. Taking a cue from psychoanalysis, his research looked at the material object of desire and the questions of identity which surround it. Through the construction of 1:20 scale models, a sequence of spatial relationships emerged which suggested indeterminate psychological states, and a new understanding of the city. 

The design began with a process similar to tailoring, generating patterns from paper which could be folded into three-dimensional shapes. These paper patterns where then digitally traced and laser-cut into 0.8 and 1.5mm plywood sheets. Steaming made the plywood patterns malleable so they could be clamped over jigs until they dried and held their shape. The moulded plywood pieces were then laminated together to create structural components, with brass rod and 3D-printed plastic components then joining the assembly.

Peter West’s scale models made from thin plywood tell an interesting story of the psychology of space and our experience of the city.

Peter West’s scale models made from thin plywood tell an interesting story of the psychology of space and our experience of the city.

“Plywood always gives you more than you bargained for” 

The making process used CNC laser cut plywood patterns which were then stream moulded and laminated together. The aesthetic character of the model is largely given by the pattern of cuts made into the plywood to facilitate the bending of the material. Plywood elements were combined with 3D printed plastics, brass rod, and linen. The model was constructed in stages, as additional pieces and structural reinforcements joined the composition, the complexity and array of forms flourished. 

His work is interested in new realities which can emerge from the making process.  “In this way, plywood is a fantastic material because it always gives you more than you bargained for. I remember taking my models into the darkroom for the first time and seeing how, as the lights passed through the thin layers of plywood, it glowed a deep red colour. It was like putting your hand over the end of a torch and seeing all the blood in your fingers. The plywood was like flesh and suddenly the model felt like a living creature. I thought, isn't that what architecture should feel like?”, Peter says. 

He is continuing to develop new designs. Peter’s ambition is to increase the size of the object from small architectural models to furniture pieces. 

“I hope to again use Koskisen plywood products in this process, and continue to explore the poetic possibilities of this rather wonderful material.” Peter wraps up.