Giulio Masotti, founder of Wood-Skin®, was present at the LIGNA 2017 show preview, sharing insights on his technology which produces panels that can be shaped into 3D. In Dubai, this installation showed how the faster, stronger and bigger smart material is redefining the possibilities of wood customisation for architectural and furnishing elements.
By Pang Yanrong
Restaurant Reign in Dubai. Photo credit: Wood-Skin®
Wood-Skin® is a new smart composite material that uses a revolutionary one-step digital fabrication technique, derived from a need to address complicated production and installation processes. It produces the patented composite material, Wood-Skin®, that combines the rigidity of wood with the flexibility of textiles to create unconventional surfaces and geometric shapes.
“Architects need something to make their idea real,” said Giulio Masotti, founder of Wood-Skin®, “Unfortunately, there are few materials and processes that can bring their design ideas, passions and desires to life. But with our material, they can.”
The incredible sophisticated results of Wood-Skin® can be seen in one of the projects – Restaurant Reign, a fusion restaurant in the financial centre of Dubai, with a blend of European and Arabic architecture.
“They had these huge walls that [the client] didn’t know what to do with. The only thing they knew was that they wanted it to be special – a ‘wow’ factor,” said Masotti.
Stepping into Restaurant Reign, patrons are greeted with a gradual crescendo – a smooth cladding at the entrance that becomes more three-dimensional as they move further into the restaurant. The finale was a multi-toned wood finish that pops out from the white furnishing and exposed concrete.
The application of standard pattern was used with Birch adapted in the composite material along with Walnut and laminate for the finish. The standard pattern is a ready-to-use material which approximate shape to achieve sculptural organic designs.
A revolutionary one-step process
The core of Wood-Skin® is its well-known revolutionary one-step process.
Using a square as an analogy, Masotti explained that the four sides are usually assembled together piece by piece. But with their single-step process, strips are digitally fabricated into one and folded into shape.
This is achieved with a computer-aided drafting (CAD) software that discerns shapes, transforms them into rigid origami surfaces and then into data for the contemporary machines. Each surface is then put together to create an extremely smart material for the project before feeding into the revolutionary one-step production to produce flat sheets to be constructed into the complex three-dimensional shape.
The length of production varies for different projects but is generally fast. Within a day, several thousands of square metres can be produced, and Restaurant Reign required only a few days.
“With the flat surfaces, you can easily ship them from Italy, Indonesia or wherever you are to the working site and have them assembled together quickly,” Masotti said. “Our process is to disrupt the way you produce volumes in general.”
The multi-toned wood finish that pops out from the white furnishing and exposed concrete
Complex installation simplified
With the size and complexity of Restaurant Reign, installation could have easily taken months or years to complete, but Wood-Skin® has engineered a fast and easy installation system where rolled sheets are hung like blind curtains before being unravelled downwards and joined together with wooden flaps.
“So you roll one down followed by the second and then you join them. Then you roll the third down and continue to join them together until you get the whole length,” Masotti explained.
“It’s very much like making a shirt than making a wall. You are actually doing a fashion operation – sewing a mega-textile instead of fixing a cladding for the wall.”
All in all, the installation for Restaurant Reign only took five days with a manpower of three.
The flexibility of Wood-Skin® has redefined the creative possibilities in the usage of wood. Masotti said the business is growing fast – expanding into exterior cladding and preparing to launch a furniture subsidiary, Ori, which means ‘fold’ in Japanese, along with tapping into the Asian market.
While the owners of Reign Restaurant have permanently closed the establishment, Masotti shared that he is currently working on many other projects in Dubai, which will serve as examples for curious clients wishing to see the results of Wood-Skin®. Other projects are also in different stages of planning in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
In the not too distant future, it looks like there is no end to the number of possibilities Wood-Skin® can create for architects and designers.
A version of this article was first published in PFMENA (Issue 2/2016).