The standard of timber construction is no longer the linear member, but the planar sheet. In both appearance and processing, cross-laminated timber resembles, at full scale, the rigid sheet materials used for model-making in the architectural design studio. Taken further, the resemblances between these materials go beyond likeness to become sameness, issuing a conceptual collapse between the representational object and the original, between the process of design and the process of construction. This project addresses these convergences by reconceptualizing the role of the physical model in the process of design, attempting to define a novel architectural expression through the tension found between the ontological and the representational status of full-scale model-making material.
The model is normally a representation; it isn’t the real thing. We’ve collectively agreed to gloss over the medium itself, allowing loosely fit joints, propped walls, warped floors and laser burns to slip past us like static from a speaker. But a naive gaze reveals something different: the imprecisions inherent to the model’s construction, previously discarded as the noise of the medium, begin to form a syntax that could be described as a “studio vernacular.” The elements of this aesthetic form an ontological overlay to the representational surface of the model, inflecting the designer’s intended meaning with the grunts and sighs that index its material properties and constructional processes. Combining the representational-ontological tension embodied by the physical model with the scalar ambiguity resulting from CLT’s affinities to model-making material, this project takes on the multi-unit dwelling in the city of Vancouver to define a contemporary timber aesthetic paradoxically described as the Gigantic Miniature.