World-renowned architect Greg Lynn captured the audience’s attention at the CAMX General Session earlier this year with stories about the intersection of architecture and composites. “It might be because I’m a sailor, but I have a bias against metals and mechanical connections. I love to glue stuff, and your industry is a world that lives on glue,” he quipped.

After the presentation, Composites Manufacturing magazine’s Managing Editor Susan Keen Flynn sat down with Lynn for an exclusive interview. The owner of Greg Lynn FORM talked about his work as an architect as well as a professor in UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design program and Chief Creative Officer of Piaggio Fast Forward, a pioneer in the lightweight transportation sector. 

Q: Do you recall when you first heard about composites?

A: Fiberglass composites are something I’ve been aware of from the time I was a Cub Scout. I grew up a sailor with some familiarity of mostly how to repair, but also use composites. The cost, the cycle time, the availability – that’s the stuff I didn’t know about until later.

Q: During your CAMX presentation, you discussed your first professional project using composite materials. Tell us a little more about it.

A: The first contact I had with composites is a chair that I did for [furniture company] Vitra called the ravioli chair. Most chairs have legs, a seat, a back – oftentimes you’ll get arms. Chairs are built out of maybe two dozen components minimum, sometimes with hundreds of components and fasteners. We tried to build a chair with just two parts. It has a hard composite base and a composite platform on the top with injection foam bonded to it, then a 3-D knitted top, much like a contemporary athletic shoe.

Q: Any surprises during that first project?

A: I hadn’t really understood just how light the material was. When we tested the prototype, the chair would slide when people sat in it. It was too light. So then the question was how do we add weight? That was interesting! The company adds weight at the showroom because we don’t want to ship metal ballast around. 

Q: What attracts you to composites?

A: It’s the forms that are possible and the ability to integrate parts – to not have fussy details and connections. Architects make a whole lot out of the detailing. It’s all about bolts and screws and mechanical assembly. And I love the idea of getting rid of that stuff.