Brian Havener

projects / cosmetic wood
Cosmetic Wood was a winner of the 2019 Design-Build-It Challenge at Olson Kundig. It is currently being implemented on an undisclosed project in Montana.

Wood has played the role of architectural surface for thousands of years, called upon for its resilient, structural capacity as well as its aesthetic potential for both the ornate and cosmetic:

ornament: discreet entities attached to the body, in order to embellish (i.e. jewelry)

cosmetic: an indiscreetness that relates always and only to the skin, inseparable from the body1

In the realm of cosmetics lies a deep history of craftspeople exploring the surface of wood through various methods of carving and gouging with a wide range of shaped hand tools. These techniques give rise to pattern, texture, and depth that go beyond the traditional reading of two-dimensional grain.

While aesthetically evocative, hand-crafted surface treatments require copious amounts of time, labor, and ultimately money. Some textured wood surface applications do exist commercially, but they are expensive and most often only veneer. Available patterns are few, static, tiled, and repeated. Dimensions are restricted.

This project aims to translate and reinterpret traditional, hand-crafted techniques through contemporary modes of digital fabrication as they relate to the cosmetic surface treatment of wood. Two techniques have been chosen as examples to replicate with CNC processing: hammering (point-based) and gouging (line-based).

Scripting is utilized to create one-off toolpaths that speak to the idiosyncratic nature of the human hand. The experimental toolpaths also have the latent potential to be amplified, manipulated, and distorted by programmed parameters of the script as well as the physical tool-bit being used. Ideally, new patterns emerge and blend with one another, giving the architect a bottom-up approach to the cosmetic application of wood, from design through fabrication.

1Kipnis, Jeffrey. “The Cunning of Cosmetics.” Herzog & de Meuron 1993-1997. Barcelona: El Croquis Editorial, 1997. pp. 22-28. Print.

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