Art in architecture is in the eye of the beholder, regardless of whether the design is formed using analog or digital techniques. In the case of Fologram, an Australian design studio that specializes in mixed reality experiences, its recent work with paperbark incorporates both.

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Students working on the structures made from paperbark

Also known as melaleuca quinquenervia, Australian paperbark is a ubiquitous tree, available throughout urban and rural areas of the country. The team at Fologram, in conjunction with students from the Royal Melbourne Insitute of Technology, began experimenting with the thin bark from the tree as an art medium and building material. They call the craft barkitecture.

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Holographic lines within VR to help build the barkitecture

Because the trees are so prevalent, sourcing strips of bark is done in small doses so the small amount removed from each tree doesn’t cause any damage. The bark is then taken to the shop where it’s contoured into creative designs in a process that’s similar to paper mache.

A student using VR to work on the structure

To add depth to the artistic expression, the team first formulated the design digitally. Using the digital file, they relied on augmented reality via the HoloLens 2 during fabrication. Wearing the VR headset while working allowed the students to see the actual form developing in alignment with the digital finished shape they were working towards.

Structures built with paperbark

The team developed a system of using stiffer bark for the support pieces and the fragile pieces as a laminated outer covering. The paperbark comes in a variety of color shades and textures, making it a fun natural material to tap into from a creative aspect.

Paperbark in an abstract shape

In addition to the plants being so prolific, they are culturally important. The aboriginal people have used the endlessly renewable resource as a building material for thousands of years.

Using both the physical and digital tools, the students are able to create a precise replica of the digital design, while manually choosing the color tones and bark thicknesses to the position. The digital model is a flat grayscale design that evolves into the final design through the artists’ interpretation of color and texture. As a result, the completed sculptures are a marriage of digital elements and handcrafted art.

The finished product is meant to inspire the exploration of readily available, sustainable and natural materials

+ Fologram

Images via Fologram