by Dawn Hammon
Art in architecture is in the eye of the beholder, regardless of whether the design is formed using analog or digital techniques. In the case of Fologram, an Australian design studio that specializes in mixed reality experiences, its recent work with paperbark incorporates both.
Also known as melaleuca quinquenervia, Australian paperbark is a ubiquitous tree, available throughout urban and rural areas of the country. The team at Fologram, in conjunction with students from the Royal Melbourne Insitute of Technology, began experimenting with the thin bark from the tree as an art medium and building material. They call the craft barkitecture.
Because the trees are so prevalent, sourcing strips of bark is done in small doses so the small amount removed from each tree doesn’t cause any damage. The bark is then taken to the shop where it’s contoured into creative designs in a process that’s similar to paper mache.
To add depth to the artistic expression, the team first formulated the design digitally. Using the digital file, they relied on augmented reality via the HoloLens 2 during fabrication. Wearing the VR headset while working allowed the students to see the actual form developing in alignment with the digital finished shape they were working towards.
The team developed a system of using stiffer bark for the support pieces and the fragile pieces as a laminated outer covering. The paperbark comes in a variety of color shades and textures, making it a fun natural material to tap into from a creative aspect.