+ A | - A

Experimenting with Porosity

Steven Holl Architects wanted to do experiments in porosity and decided to take on the Porosity project. Random porosity involves a non-linear repetition of individual components in varying scales, while recursive porosity employs mathematical strategies to generate infinitely complex patterns.

Fact Sheet

Name: Porosity
Program: experiments in porosity
Size: 50 m2
Steven Holl Architects
Principal Designer: Steven Holl
Project Architect Nick Gelpi
Project Team: Alessandro Orsini
Contributors: Garrick Ambrose, Tim Bade, Makram El-Kadi, Chris McVoy
Coordinators Ruth Lo, Priscilla Fraser
Material/Fabrication: Albeflex Srl: Alberto Martinuzzo
Laser Cutting: Sintesi Laser, Andrea Ros
Lighting Consultant: iGuzzini

SHA - POROSITY Installation Detail


Developed in collaboration with Albefex Srl. of Treviso, Italy, the composite “Albeflex BL Special” is designed to be lightweight, self-supporting and capable of taking advantage of CNC driven digital fabrication techniques. Formed of cross-laminated plies of wood veneer and a central core of a proprietary new fabric and paper composite with a total thickness of 1.8 mm in four laminae, Albeflex has significantly less mass than similar materials based on sheet metal core materials. In addition, second stage fabrication associated with metal cores such as on a press brake, is eliminated as the hinge formed by the laser or water-jet scoring of the wood plies is flexible enough to allow for flat shipping and bending in the field.


Three dimensional forms are digitally resolved into flat panels which are then automatically nested for maximally efficient use of the basic sheet size of 3050mm x 1050 mm. Individual panels, which are numbered and sequenced during the CNC fabrication process, thus eliminating the need for traditional shop or assembly drawing, are fabricated with 75mm scored border flaps. Folding and through-bolting of these flanges forms an autonomous diaphragm structure which provides rigidity through the interconnection of all elements.

Random and Recursive Porosity

Five experimental porous patterns are laser cut form the material, each exploring a particular aspect of the non-repetitive made possible by digital fabrication. Random porosity involves a non-linear repetition of individual components in varying scales, while recursive porosity employs mathematical strategies to generate infinitely complex patterns. In one experiment, Pascal’s Theorem is used as a generator for a porous cloud of hexagon-derived openings. The random and non-repetitive character of the experiment gives rise to a limitless range of rich and unexpected spatial phenomena.

I am interested in books as buildings. Making a book is like making a building. It takes a lot of effort and is agonizing but somehow also very fulfilling because you have to make things coalesce. The first book that I wrote in 1989 coincided with an exhibition called Anchoring. I felt that I had to write some kind of manifesto, a position paper. The argument is for an architecture that is unique to site and situation. Every project has a beginning point in its locus, a universal condition in the specific. This is an interesting philosophy, but does it mean that there is nothing in general that we can say about architecture?

My books are reflections upon my work, which has recently focused on a series of experiments in porosity. This exploration began in 1996 with the project for the Het Oosten headquarters in Amsterdam on the De single Canal. We were invited to make an extension to a 19th Century building. We wanted to turn the building around so that it faced the water. This company which employs 240 people is a developer of social housing. The pavilion might be used for meetings, Christmas parties or lunchtime activities the question was how to design a building that had no singular program, no particular programmatic aspect in form. We took as an example something that is the same in plan, section and elevation—a scientific object called the Menger Sponge, which has porosity within porosity within porosity.











Installation Detail


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe by RSS!

1 Comment

    Trackbacks / Pingbacks

    show trackbacks

    Leave a comment, or ask a question