IKEA’s SPACE10 laboratory reinvents craftsmanship with digital techniques
Taking up the debate surrounding digitization in manufacturing and its impact on traditional craftsmanship, based in Copenhagen SPACE10, the laboratory of the future created by IKEA, recently invited three architects: Yuan Chieh Yang, Benas Burdulis, and Emil Froege â to explore the potential of CNC milling for traditional craft techniques. The architects proposed three divergent but equally innovative solutions to address the fundamental problem plaguing digital production: an apparent lack of “human touch”. In a post-Fordist world increasingly dominated by customization, this survey is of obvious importance to a company that deals primarily with off-the-shelf, ready-to-assemble products; However, with its advocacy for infusing classic craft techniques dying into the digital manufacturing process, the experiment could make sense for many other reasons.
The project aimed to find a way to create objects with a distinct aesthetic: ones that had the unique touch and feel of something handmade despite being digitally crafted. This steered the three architects towards a study of traditional craft methods as they explored various possibilities to expand the current use of digital tools.
Taiwanese architect Yuan Chieh Yang, interested in the ancient Japanese craft of wood carpentry, used the CNC milling machine to build a ten-meter-long wooden column without using screws or hand tools. He observed the limits of the cutting tools used by the Japanese – the chisel could only produce straight cuts – and experimented in order to reinvent the ancient technique. Using the machine allowed him to add subtle curves to the carpentry, which he said made it easier to lock parts securely. Yang also suggested using laminated timber pieces to make the process efficient and scalable to increase its applicability to the construction industry.
American architect Benas Burdulis, whose aesthetic is defined by his early upbringing around the sublime forests of Lithuania, applied the precision of the CNC milling machine to create a subtle fluted effect in a wall installation that accentuates the play of light and shadow in an interior space . He devised a modular system to machine a surface with a pattern, a variable curve along the entire length of the groove. This unique inherent quality, according to Burdulis, is the most efficient of the installation. “When struck by direct light, it creates a subtle wave of shadow that emphasizes the fluid nature of light … The goal is to make people more aware of their own perception and perception. space, âhe said.
Danish architect Emil Froege’s interest in the poetics of architecture led him to focus on the use of copper as a reflector of light âto regulate the atmosphere in a spaceâ. In an effort to understand the relationship between the digital and the natural, he explored the possibility of shaping copper, a classic artisanal material that has been hand-shaped for centuries, using the CNC milling machine instead. This forced him to replace the machine’s cutting tool with a small metal ball, which resulted in a continuous spiral forming along the surface of the lamp. âYou get the tool trail … which is pretty fascinating,â he said.
What defines the limits of craftsmanship? Is it the production process and the type of tools used? Will crafts perish in the wake of the digital world? “Craftsmanship is defined by intention and attention, caring about the result and the relationship, caring about the end user,” Guy Horton said in a 2013 column for ArchDaily. He thinks the crux of the matter is humanism – digital manufacturing can be reinvented if “it’s no longer just a cold, distant, profit-making process of production and consumption.” This is exactly what SPACE10 achieved with this project, thanks to the integration of classic craftsmanship with digital tools of the 21st century. The subtle curve of the carpentry of the wooden column, the unique pattern in the grooves of the wall installation and the continuous spiral along the surface of the copper lamp are all hallmarks of the digital craftsman: produced by machines, but harboring the imprint of the human creator.
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