Cut it Out: The Work of Lisa Iwamoto

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July 16, 2012

It’s not hyperbole to say that Lisa Iwamoto has written the book on digital fabrication. Published by Princeton Architectural Press, Digital Fabrications: Architectural and Material Techniques (2009), an industry best seller, reveals that she is both an expert and a practitioner of the technique, along with her husband, Craig Scott. The two have been partners in the San Francisco architectural firm IwamotoScott for the past 12 years. Architects like Frank Gehry and Greg Lynn introduced the world to the dramatic forms made possible by digital fabrication—which involves the transfer of designs from a computer to machinery that creates building components—and Iwamoto and Scott were among its early pioneers. The process allows architects to break from the rigid geometry of traditional building materials by getting them to perform in ways they’ve never been able to do: to ripple like fabric or fold upon itself like an origami sculpture. “It’s another kind of tool, another way of making something,” says Iwamoto, who also teaches a class on digital fabrication at the University of California at Berkeley. “The innovative part is what you do with it.” Here are some innovative examples from the IwamotoScott portfolio.

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  Voussoir Cloud
Los Angeles (2008)								 
IwamotoScott was commissioned by the SCI-Arc Gallery of Southern California Institute of Architecture to do an installation for its prestigious architectural series that acts as an incubator for new ideas.
    Voussoir Cloud Los Angeles (2008) IwamotoScott was commissioned by the SCI-Arc Gallery of Southern California Institute of Architecture to do an installation for its prestigious architectural series that acts as an incubator for new ideas.
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  “Our goal was to make the thinnest surface possible and to make a vault, which you would expect to be heavy, into a light and porous surface,” Iwamoto explains. The material of choice: paperwood. Since this was the first time IwamotoScott used the material on such a large scale, they worked with a structural engineer to make the piece, made up of modules with curved edges that nest together, self-supporting.
    “Our goal was to make the thinnest surface possible and to make a vault, which you would expect to be heavy, into a light and porous surface,” Iwamoto explains. The material of choice: paperwood. Since this was the first time IwamotoScott used the material on such a large scale, they worked with a structural engineer to make the piece, made up of modules with curved edges that nest together, self-supporting.
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  One Kearny Lobby
San Francisco (2010)								
In this privately owned building with a public event space on the top floor, the trick was to design a path from the lobby that could also attract attention from the curb. Otherwise, “it felt like a normal office building and was not that welcoming,” says Iwamoto.  Courtesy of: © Matthew Millman.  All rights to use this images are reserved unless specifically stated in writing.   For further information
    One Kearny Lobby San Francisco (2010) In this privately owned building with a public event space on the top floor, the trick was to design a path from the lobby that could also attract attention from the curb. Otherwise, “it felt like a normal office building and was not that welcoming,” says Iwamoto.

    Courtesy of: © Matthew Millman. All rights to use this images are reserved unless specifically stated in writing. For further information

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  Inspired by coffered ceilings, Iwamoto and Scott used paperwood, a micro-thin wood veneer laminate on paper, to create a reinterpretation of the chandelier. Theirs, however, is the entire ceiling.  Courtesy of: © Matthew Millman.  All rights to use this images are reserved unless specifically stated in writing.   For further information
    Inspired by coffered ceilings, Iwamoto and Scott used paperwood, a micro-thin wood veneer laminate on paper, to create a reinterpretation of the chandelier. Theirs, however, is the entire ceiling.

    Courtesy of: © Matthew Millman. All rights to use this images are reserved unless specifically stated in writing. For further information

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  Construction did involve something of a sleight of hand: the coffers are made without any mechanical fasteners like screws, but held in place by folding and gluing the material onto itself. When the ceiling is “on,” it emits a luminous glow.  Courtesy of: © Matthew Millman.  All rights to use this images are reserved unless specifically stated in writing.   For further information
    Construction did involve something of a sleight of hand: the coffers are made without any mechanical fasteners like screws, but held in place by folding and gluing the material onto itself. When the ceiling is “on,” it emits a luminous glow.

    Courtesy of: © Matthew Millman. All rights to use this images are reserved unless specifically stated in writing. For further information

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  Façade for House in Bruges 
Unbuilt (2010)							
“The client wanted something unique, naturalistic, but also durable,” Iwamoto explains, of a screen wall of folded powder coated steel panels she and her husband designed for a home in the Belgian center of lacemaking. Since this was a historic building, the screen had to be separate from the facade, but part of it.
    Façade for House in Bruges Unbuilt (2010) “The client wanted something unique, naturalistic, but also durable,” Iwamoto explains, of a screen wall of folded powder coated steel panels she and her husband designed for a home in the Belgian center of lacemaking. Since this was a historic building, the screen had to be separate from the facade, but part of it.
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  The architects created perforations in the screen, which allow light to enter the building, and also refer back to the region’s textile traditions.
    The architects created perforations in the screen, which allow light to enter the building, and also refer back to the region’s textile traditions.
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  Design Concept
MAC Cosmetics Store (2011) 
IwamotoScott was commissioned to come up with a cool concept for a future store that would complement by the makeup maker’s hip, fashion-forward personality. The 10-foot torqued column mimics a conventional structural column whose function is to support a ceiling, but here serves as a swirling focal point with an incredible lightness due to the material: super fine 24-gauge steel. With arms that extend some 20 feet, the column does serve one functional purpose: as a light baffle to hide the ceiling’s fluorescent lights. “Fluorescent light is never nice to look at,” says Iwamoto.
    Design Concept MAC Cosmetics Store (2011) IwamotoScott was commissioned to come up with a cool concept for a future store that would complement by the makeup maker’s hip, fashion-forward personality. The 10-foot torqued column mimics a conventional structural column whose function is to support a ceiling, but here serves as a swirling focal point with an incredible lightness due to the material: super fine 24-gauge steel. With arms that extend some 20 feet, the column does serve one functional purpose: as a light baffle to hide the ceiling’s fluorescent lights. “Fluorescent light is never nice to look at,” says Iwamoto.
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  Here's the ceiling of the MAC design concept.
    Here's the ceiling of the MAC design concept.
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  Wurster Cloud Installation
University of California, Berkeley (2012)  						
To shade graduation ceremonies for UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, Iwamoto and the 24 students in her digital fabrication seminar created a canopy outside Wurster Hall.
    Wurster Cloud Installation University of California, Berkeley (2012) To shade graduation ceremonies for UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, Iwamoto and the 24 students in her digital fabrication seminar created a canopy outside Wurster Hall.
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  The project proved to be the perfect “teachable moment” for the professor: the light and airy structure made by stringing together heavy-grade Mylar shapes demonstrated the ideal use of digital fabrication.
    The project proved to be the perfect “teachable moment” for the professor: the light and airy structure made by stringing together heavy-grade Mylar shapes demonstrated the ideal use of digital fabrication.
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  The technique’s perfect for projects involving various sized parts—this one contained four different shapes. Also, the required amount—some 10,000 pieces—were also conducive to the technique. “To cut it by hand would be time prohibitive,” says Iwamoto, “and to create a dye would be too expensive. This was the perfect sized batch for digital fabrication.”
    The technique’s perfect for projects involving various sized parts—this one contained four different shapes. Also, the required amount—some 10,000 pieces—were also conducive to the technique. “To cut it by hand would be time prohibitive,” says Iwamoto, “and to create a dye would be too expensive. This was the perfect sized batch for digital fabrication.”

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