Digital carpentry: Unearthly elegance straight from the bargain basement.
A park bench created by Dharmesh Patel and Marty McElveen.
up like a towering stack of pancakes. Of course, simulations deprived of their skin.
these flat pieces have to be glued, locked, nailed, or One Cranbrook pièce de résistance was created
screwed in order to stick together, but this digital by recent graduates Dharmesh Patel and Marty
aesthetic can be striking. Instead of the sinuous, McElveen. Their weird green park bench bulges out
slimy, whiplash-line of a plastic blobject, stacked of the Michigan forest soil like a cross between a
router sections convey a rugged, pixelly, computer- half-deflated toadstool and an overstretched tennis
primitives look. They seem uniquely suitable for, say, net. Like the famous Wassily chair of Marcel Breuer,
the 8-bit penthouse pad of a playboy Super Mario. it’s one of those far-fetched design fancies that turn
Router technique two is the rather more sophisti- out to be surprisingly comfortable.
cated “graphic profiles.” Rather than being piled and A Wassily chair is a metal-and-leather designer
glued into a solid layered monolith, the flat routered skeleton that will cost you an arm and a leg. But a
pieces are turned on end and slotted together. skeletal routered bench is a combo of software and
It’s easy to cut jigsaw tabs and slots with routers, plywood, two of the cheapest things in the modern
and this “graphic profile” treatment turns a router’s world. It’s cheap enough to abandon on the spot.
stark cookie-cutterosity into a digital-aesthetic So, along with its aesthetic virtues, Patel and
badge of pride. Tabbed and slotted structures of McElveen’s bench is a futuristic advent that’s also
this kind have a Nipponese Superflat look, very biodegradable. It’s already sprouting spring weeds
angular and planar, perfect for the inhabitants of through its thousand open crevices, and melting
a pop-up book. slowly into the damp forest earth.
Then comes the last and most eye-boggling
technique, the “fin model,” aka the “grid of sections.”
This is a native router construction, that is pretty
much nothing but slots and tabs: it transforms 2D
into 3D by creating a reticulated honeycomb of
intersecting wooden slices. The resulting constructions look finny and skeletal, like vector-graphic
Bruce Sterling ( email@example.com) is a science fiction writer
and part-time design professor.