Experimenting with post-tensioned wood structures

  • Type Exhibition,
  • Location Omaha, Nebraska
  • Area 100 s.f.
  • Status Completed
  • Date 2022
  • Collaborators

    Min | Day

    FACT (installation at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts)

FLOCK explores a cable-tensioned system to support a free-standing timber wall using no adhesives, no fasteners, and relatively simple fabrication techniques.

Advanced timber construction has been a topic of great interest to the architecture and building industry due to its versatility and sustainable performance (carbon sequestration, renewability of resources, and so on). Conventional light timber frame construction relies on redundant studs and an abundance of “dumb” fasteners (nails). Current research focuses on mass-timber construction using glue-laminated beams and cross-laminated timber systems; however, both of these systems depend on sophisticated manufacturing facilities and require significant amounts of adhesives. FLOCK explores an alternative post-tensioned system to support a free-standing timber wall using no adhesives, no fasteners, and relatively simple fabrication techniques. By utilizing the advanced geometric controls afforded by parametric software and standard production of repeated components, the project achieves formal complexity via simple means.

FLOCK was designed as the inaugural installation in the Little Gallery in Omaha, Nebraska and was accompanied by MOD‘s Soft Stones.

In 2022, an updated version of FLOCK was permanently installed at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art.

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Flock challenges the expectation that the combination of advanced design computation and digital fabrication results in projects with built with fine tolerance and high precision. Instead, FLOCK is a low-resolution construction designed with high-precision software. The inherent looseness of the system permits the use of average quality materials and yields an unexpected lack of control and the scale of the individual part.

Fitting within a 10’-0” cube, FLOCK transitions from a 10‘-0” x 10’-0” square at the base to a 7’-0” diameter circle at the top with an opening on one side for entrance. The structure comprises a bolted steel base formed from a 4” wide-flange steel beam, stacked short lengths of 2x6 lumber, and a bolted steel tension ring at the top. Cables anchored to the steel base extend through slots in the lumber and are tensioned with swaged fittings above the top ring. The wood components consist of 2 types: a standard slotted 2x6 (in a limited set of different lengths) and a shaped 2x6 that projects into the space (called a “twig”). The installation is freestanding and does not require attachment or bracing to the existing walls or floor for stability.

Construction sequence: scaffold, cable, stack, remove scaffold; board lengths (colors) defined by parametric model

Looking up; board placement map in layers

Project Awards

2018 Interior Design Educators Council Award of Excellence, Best in Category: Design as Interior

2017 AIA Nebraska Merit Award for Interior Architecture


“FLOCK \\ proof-of-concept” by Jeffrey L. Day, ACADIA 2019, Ubiquity and Autonomy, Projects Proceedings, also featured in the ACADIA 2019 projects exhibition in Austin, Texas

Photography By Photographs by Colin Conces
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