Q: Have you used composite materials again since then?
A: It really has to be the right combination of many factors for composites to be a viable architectural proposal – as it is with any material – and I haven’t been in that situation again where I felt like it was the right solution for the particular architectural situation. Because of that, I’ve actually taken to designing a carbon fiber chair just to be able to work with the material again. I’m excited for when the opportunity presents itself again to use composites in a building. I think right now my dream would be to do a building that involved both mass timber and composites.
Q: Tell us about one of your more interesting subsequent projects.
A: Since the completion of that residence that used structural FRPs, I’ve actually been involved in a few mass timber projects and gotten a broader understanding about the use of nonconventional building materials in the construction industry. What’s interesting about composites and mass timber is they both attempt to address specific goals in the building industry, seemingly from different ends of a spectrum, but share many of the same challenges to wider adoption. Through studying materiality – and maybe through practice in general – I’ve gained a broader appreciation for the role of architecture in our time.
Q: What attracts you to composite materials?
A: It’s been a part of everything I loved as a child – tennis, cars and airplanes. I also think composite materials are one of those things where you can explain the basics of it to anybody, but then there is a seemingly bottomless well of information about it if you want to dive in deep. Of course, once you explain the basics of composites to somebody, it also immediately begs the question of why they aren’t used more in architecture. And that’s when it gets complicated – when you have to explain why it isn’t so easy to use composites in architecture. I think part of what I love is that challenge – making something that is complicated uncomplicated.
Q: What kinds of architectural projects are composites ideally suited for?
A: Because composites can be engineered to have all sorts of properties, many of which will perform much better than conventional materials, they are ideally suited for all sorts of architectural applications. But realistically, they are best suited for projects where the owner and contractor have a familiarity with composites and are aligned on the vision and aware of the challenges with implementation.