Splice Joint

Tim Black on translating hand-made to digital…

What is special about this model?

Vaughan Howard, one of our very clever BKK staff, brought this to life. I love the inventiveness of this; its true ‘maker’ spirit.

It’s a mechanical system for fitting components together in the tradition of nail-less connections found in Japanese carpentry. It is Vaughan’s creation and I think it’s beautifully inventive. For me it captures the spirit of the ‘maker movement’ of which 3D printing is a core technological element. For me it tells a nice story about how architecture has the capacity to be a very inventive practise.

Vaughan has come upon a problem that I have also been tackling in a side-hustle called Nudel: how do you make something using digital techniques of design and manufacture, and make it easy for humans to put things together? He has approached this in a very different way to Nudel and has created quite a unique thing.

Where and when did the idea behind this model originate?

Vaughan is an absolute craftsman. He runs his own furniture-making studio outside the office and he – a little bit like me – is an inveterate tinkerer. I think this largely comes from his timber practise and he has extended that into 3D printing.

What else does this model reveal?

One of the things Vaughan has had to think about with this component was the need to adjust it for quite different manufacturing tolerances than he’s used to with his work in timber. So, as a craftsman, he has moved nimbly between mediums. He has translated the skills he has learnt working with his hands into a digital application.

Has this influenced any projects within the BKK studio? If not, what opportunities do you see in it for transferring into architectural practice?

This is very transferable. Vaughan has recently located a commercially available nail-less cross laminated timber (CLT) connection from Europe.

There are also great historical precedents, such as Walter Burley Griffin’s interlocking brick system Knitlock, of which there are a few remaining houses. I think with the rise of pre-manufactured housing we’ll see increasing component and sub-assembly style manufacturing of housing elements. Within the context of high labour costs, anything that can go together in an easy ‘Ikea-style’ manner is going to have a viable place in our industry.