When Timber Goes High Tech: Sculptural Free Form Framing

Free Form Cambridge Mosque

We’ll always love rustic, old world timber frame structures more than anything else. But isn’t it cool to see all the design possibilities that the computer age continues to open up for architecture? One great example is “Free Form,” a new collection of supporting frameworks and shell structures by Blumer Lehman. Amazingly complex, these structures are designed using parametric planning and 3D computer modeling, resulting in creative organic and mathematical shapes. 

Engineered for structural soundness, “Free Form” is a unique conjunction of timber frame architecture and technology that aims to redefine the limits of what can be achieved with wood. 

Freeform Swatch Headquarters interior

“Modern timber construction starts in a virtual space, where a 3D digital model, also known as a parametric model, enables different versions of highly complex construction projects to be digitally programmed and tested. Creativity has almost no limits here. Thanks to parametric planning and programming, we can successfully harmonize even the most unusual forms, functions and constructions and produce these on our systems at competitive prices.”

“Complex timber constructions are an engineering challenge faced daily at Blumer Lehmann, and one we’re ideally equipped for. Depending on project requirements, we’ll find the right machine at our production facility. The five-axle CNC trimming line, for example, is the centrepiece of our Free Form timber production, enabling even the most complex components to be processed.”

free form knies kinderzoo

Examples of structures that have been built using Free Form include the cantilever pavilion roof of a tent-like pavilion at the center of the Knies Kinderzoo zoological gardens in Switzerland and an organically shaped three-dimensional facade for the new Swatch headquarters.

Freeform Swatch Headquarters

The Cambridge Mosque is another gorgeous example, located in Cambridge, England, pictured top.

“The timber construction becomes clearly apparent in the entrance area, where the first of the thirty timber columns can be seen as they soar upwards like trees, merging with the lattice-like ceiling structure to form a vast tracery of timber. In addition to a prayer hall with a ceiling height of 8.5 m that can accommodate around 1,000 worshippers, the building includes a café and two apartments.”