“The task of the architect is to encompass everything about the site, starting from the concrete conditions and the sensory impressions created by those, to memories of the place, through empathy to vision” – Jean Nouvel 

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Sculptform Showroom in Australia by Woods Bagot Global Studio_©Woods Bagot Global Studio

Design is a conscious complex arrangement conceptualized to define, create, solve, and/or even aestheticize a space, object, or experience. It is a creative yet subjective process that is derived from the numerous factors acting on it. Good architectural design is defined not only by the visual impact of a space but also by the empathetic understanding of the architect that delivers detail. Australia-based Woods Bagot Global Studio unceasingly pushes the boundaries of design discipline keeping up with the diverse and ever-evolving requirements of the modern era. The firm is still marking its presence for over a century that had been founded by architects Edward John Woods and Walter Bagot. “Experience is at the intersection” – as the studio states, their approach to design is multi-faceted, comprehending personal, regional, urban, global, and sustainable characteristics. Clarity of narrative, back and forth of ideas, and an intensive study of the  client’s expectations, context, material, diversity, and innovation, result in the finest architectural creations.  Woods Bagot’s Scultpform Showroom demonstrates a striking balance between their creative outlook and Sculptform’s manufacturing expertise. Sculptform is a bespoke timber wall and ceiling solution manufacturer, based in Australia. The design competition for their new showroom opened various possibilities to explore and enhance their capabilities. Project lead Bruno Mendes from Woods Bagot saw and seized the opportunity to design something unique, that would create an impact true to the maker’s craftsmanship, innovative products, and techniques. The abstraction of merging the form and function created an expansive ‘working showroom’ focusing on the versatility of Sculptform’s curved timber and white oak battens. The idea was to combine the elements of art, design, and engineering to create not only a designated workspace but also an architectural installation with the maker’s mastery. 

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Schematic diagram_©Woods Bagot Global Studio

Wood Bagot additionally ensured to create captivating views of the studio from large picture windows facing the street. Contrasting to the existing office exteriors, creating contemporary interiors with smooth curves certainly stood apart in the fabric of the city. This expanded showroom connects and invites the design community to 

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Plan and of Sculptform Showroom in Australia by Woods Bagot Global Studio_© Woods Bagot Global Studio
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Schematic Sketch of Sculptform Showroom in Australia by Woods Bagot Global Studio_©Woods Bagot Global Studio

come together in a co-creation space to explore, experiment, and share new concepts. Accordingly, the spatial planning of the studio ensured an open layout with the focal point being the workshop area in the center. By doing this, the architect wanted the visitors to observe the manufacturing process, making it true to its nature. Providing the client and visitors beyond just a typical retail outlet, Sculptform Design Studio also incorporates high-tech digital display galleries. This enabled the surrounding space to be seamless in a form that comprised the meeting areas and collaboration spaces to enhance interaction and exchange of ideas among the visionaries. “Sculptform’s name inspired the design team to explore a concept for sequencing these spaces that were both immersive and sculptural,” explained Woods Bagot.

Gropius wrote in Bauhaus Dessau –
Principles of Bauhaus Production: “An object
is defined by its nature. In order, then, to
design it to function correctly – a container, a
chair, or a house – one must first of all study
its nature: for it must serve its purpose
perfectly, that is, it must fulfill its function
usefully, be durable, economical, and
‘beautiful.’” 

Over the past few decades, the constant  advancement in technology and computation has led to new means and mediums for fabrication with new levels of efficiency to cater to the much more complex and emergent forms. These include digital  production, robotics, CNC milling, and much more.  

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Digital Fabrication showing Timber Versatility :Top – CNC mil fabricated – Carapace,Pavilion in ArtOmi, New York. Designed by architects Vruti Desai and Avinash Sharma _©Vruti Desai
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Steam bent bench series by South Korean designer Bae Se Hwa, article by Eleanor Gibson_© https://www.dezeen.com/2019/03/25/bae-se-hwa-steam-bent-series-r-company-exhibit/
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Sculptform Design Studio in Australia by Woods Bagot Global Studio_©Woods Bagot Global Studio

What one experiences in the working showroom is visually pleasing and has a palpable connection to Sculptform’s products and outcome. Architects and designers have embraced the naturally occurring properties like sustainability, small bulk density, relatively high strength, etc. of this wonder material ‘timber’ and Sculptform has explored endless possibilities to put it to best use with its technical progress. The very nature of timber itself adds warmth, versatility, and incredible flexibility to the space. 

The studio entirely is designed with a range of timber click-on battens – steam bent to create sweeping curves that transition from the wall to the ceiling. This technique of steam bending dates back to the 1840s which uses steam’s heat and moisture to make the wood pliable enough to shape and deform it. The grains of white oak provide an outstanding aesthetic to the space which is enhanced by the water-based cream clear coating, adding protection thus increasing the life span of the material. The tunnel-like passage created with these battens demonstrates a theatrical look adding drama to the space. With structured wood as the heart material of the project, Woods Bagot replaced the glass balustrade with timber. Each timber unit is ingeniously arranged into position with a track clipping it in place, making it a very sophisticated system. The concealed doors and engineering enhance the appearance allowing the integration of LED lights to create a soft gentle mood whereas digital display walls make it future-oriented and client-convenient creating a positive impact.  

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Sculptform Design Studio Meeting Room in Australia by Woods Bagot Global Studio_©Woods Bagot Global Studio
Display Area in Australia by Woods Bagot Global Studio_© Woods Bagot Global Studio

The aesthetic of the Sculptform Studio reflects the very characteristics that Woods Bagot invokes to create. Whilst the design and techniques have changed and evolved, the process yet remains timeless. What started as an experiment, shaped out to be a remarkable example of the amalgamation of the designer’s vision and manufacturer as the client. Thus, opening up an array of ideas and imagination to elevate the most basic building material to create exceptional outcomes. 

References: 

  1. https://www.woodsbagot.com/projects/sculptform/
  2. https://www.archdaily.com/catalog/us/products/20271/sculptform-design-studio-sculptform
  3. World Architecture Festival 

https://www.worldbuildingsdirectory.com/entries/sculptform-design-studio/

  1. Sculptform design studio in melbourne by woods bagot is a celebration of craft.

https://www.yellowtrace.com.au/sculptform-design-studio-melbourne-woods-bagot-showroom-interiors-australia/

  1. Sculptform embraces a one-stop workshop, office and showroom.

https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/sculptform-embraces-a-one-stop-workshop-office-and-showroom-20210401-p57fxc.html

Author

Vruti Desai is an architect and a designer based in Mumbai with a master’s degree in Architecture from Pratt Institute in New York. Being a multi-disciplinary artist, designing signature spaces and creatively expressing narrative experiences that enhance everyday human activity was an ideal way to combine these interests.

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