gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london
 

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london

within the ornate setting of london‘s royal academy, gilles retsin‘s latest work explores the real effects of virtual technology and how augmented reality could be used for fabrication, as opposed to just visualization. entitled ‘real virtuality’, the project uses a hololens (mixed reality smartglasses) to communicate directly between a digital model and a physical space, resulting in a pre-fabricated design that can be assembled quickly and efficiently.

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom
image by NAARO | all images courtesy of gilles retsin architecture

 

 

the hololens has been used to overlay a digital model of the envisioned design in the exhibition space, indicating the position of the new intervention. as the timber blocks are modular and the design is not fixed, adaptations can be made there and then, resulting in a more efficient process. gilles retsin explains, ‘we used AR to send instructions directly from the digital model to the team working on site. AR therefore helps us understand what a fully-automated construction process would look like, where a digital model communicates directly with people and robots on site.’

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom

the installation is a fragment of a larger space, a room within a room
image by NAARO

 

 

each plywood building block consists of a 9mm and 12mm soft plywood sheets that has been CNC-milled in a kit of parts. the elements are then engineered to be able to perform in any structural situation within the installation. in themselves, every element is relatively weak, but the redundant combination of the elements establishes a strong structure. the building blocks are kept together under tension with lateral steel rods placed in specific, repeating connection points between the elements.

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom
the structure transitions into a series of benches and seating surfaces where visitors can rest and watch a series of videos by scanlab and keiichi matsuda
image by NAARO

 

 

gilles retsin comments ‘it’s becoming more and more clear that timber will be one of the most important materials for construction in the 21st century. the emphasis is often on the sustainable aspects of timber, but what is underestimated is also the degree to which timber construction can be automated and therefore reduce the cost of construction. combine with digital technologies such as AR and robotics, timber construction can give us a completely new kind of architecture that is both exciting, sustainable and accessible to the many.’

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom

under the ornate ceiling of the royal academy burlington house building, a second ceiling is materialised, consisting of repeating, modular timber blocks
image by NAARO

 

 

the installation at the royal academy gives a first glimpse of what timber architecture could look like when combined with automation and algorithms. gilles retsin has previously explored these construction method for projects such as the tallinn architecture biennale pavillion (2017) and a multi-family home in wemmel, close to brussels (2015). architecturally, the installation is a mere fragment of a larger design, which is not completely materialised, but lets visitors understand and experience what the larger building would be like to inhabit.

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom

the same building block is used in different structural situations: as a bench, column, cantilever or ceiling
image by NAARO

 

 

a series of benches within the timber intervention allows visitors to sit down and rest, while watching videos by scanlab projects and keiichi matsuda. the installation is therefore both a neutral backdrop and a subject of the exhibition. this installation was part of invisible landscapes: imagination (act III), curated by gonzalo herrero. it presented projects by four practices – gilles retsin architecture, scanlab projects, keiichi matsuda and soft bodies. from immersive installations to film and virtual-reality experiences, the third act of invisible landscapes explores how the virtual might transform the physical space and vice versa.

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom

transition from vertical to horizontal
image by NAARO

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom

fragments are scattered throughout the royal academy
image by NAARO

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom
the elements before assembly
image by NAARO

 

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom
plywood sheets are CNC-milled into a kit of parts, which are then assembled into the elements

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom

the L-shaped building blocks consist of 9 and 12mm plywood plates, gaining strength with internal stiffening plates

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom
the installation deliberately hides the engineering behind it, only showing abstract timber elements with shadow gaps between it

gilles retsin fuses augmented reality with timber construction at the royal academy london designboom
the installation is also a prototype for a larger architectural system, such as the diamonds house in belgium (2015)

 

 

project info:

 

project name: ‘real virtuality’

project location: the royal academy, london, the U.K

design: gilles retsin architecture

team: gilles retsin, kevin saey, johan wijesinghe

engineering: manja van de worp, YIP structural engineering london

pre-fabrication: kevin saey, johan wijesinghe, mario medina, rida qurashi, effie douroudi, manuel montoro, tanishk saha, athina athiana, eleana georgousi, akhmet khakimov, eirini tsomokou, evangelia triantafylla, vicente sánchez seoane, ming liu, po-fu yang, evgenia krassakopoulou, ning zheng, keshia lim, joana calado correia, chuan tian, mengmeng zhao, pablo maldonado, gilles willems, nadia souki, shuting guo, yenfen huang, hungda chien, charles wu

on-site construction: isaie bloch, brecht reynaert, kevin saey, johan wijesinghe

 

the bartlett school of architecture:

design computation lab: mollie claypool, manuel jimenez, gilles retsin, vicente soler

bartlett b-made: niamh grace, david shanks, mads peterson, alex mccann, john henshaw

 

augmented reality: fologram with the support of metsawood

 

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

edited by: lynne myers | designboom

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