In Tallinn, Estonia, a team of designers have merged traditional craftsmanship with digital modeling to create Steampunk, a sculptural pavilion that uses steam-bent hardwood and computer-aided design. Winner of the Tallinn Architecture Biennial 2019 Installation Program Competition, the spectacular artwork uses the laborious process of steam bending timber by hand, rather than by robotic production, to call attention to the merits of traditional craftsmanship absent in machine building.

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Gwyllim Jahn, Fologram’s Cameron Newnham, Soomeen Hahm Design and Igor Pantic designed the Steampunk pavilion with the help of digital models that were rendered as holographic overlays during construction. Instead of translating their designs into CNC code for robotic production, the team decided to use a hybrid approach and build the pavilion by hand with the help of a holographic guide. 

“While computer aided manufacturing and robotics have given architects unprecedented control over the materialization of their designs, the nuance and subtlety commonly found in traditional craft practices is absent from the artefacts of robotic production because the intuition and understanding of the qualitative aspects of a project as well as the quantitative is difficult to describe in the deterministic and explicit language of these machines,” explain the designs in a statement. “We are interested in approaches to making that hybridize analogue construction with the precision and flexibility of digital models.”

Related: Otherworldly tree sculpture mimics plant growth with glowing veins

Using standardized 100-by-10-millimeter timber boards, the construction team bagged, steamed and then bent each strip over an adaptable formwork while using the holographic model as a reference. The twisted pieces of timber were then assembled to create the appearance of a woven 3D knot measuring roughly eight meters wide and 4.6 meters in height. The pavilion has four distinct spaces framing views towards the old city of Tallinn as well as the Architecture Museum.

+ Soomeen Hahm Design

Images by Peter Bennetts