When John Matosky hired Merge Architects to upgrade his loft, it was a pretty standard project—renovate the existing lackluster bathroom, add a second bathroom, and build a bookshelf. But Elizabeth Whittaker, firm principal and an adjunct assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, saw an opportunity to do a little material research on how to create a three-dimensional wall.
"I built my practice out of making projects from non-projects," she says. "John didn’t ask for this type of surface treatment, but we had some renderings, showed them to him, and he went for it." For the bookshelf—essentially an oversized peg-board wall that wraps around a bathroom—Merge blends handcraftsmanship and digital tooling. These techniques are writ large through the repetition of an inexpensive, everyday object: the dowel.
High-tech fabrication meets low-tech in the end result. The architects modeled the gradation in Rhino, a computer program; calculated the precise length of each maple dowel needed to create each wave; CNC-milled the peg-board; and used elbow grease for the 80-hour final assembly. "It was literally peg, glue, stick in hole," explains Whittaker.