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Architecture by numbers

A designer’s vision on the one hand and the technical implementation on the other, do not always match. Sometimes, only a mathematician can help. A yacht designer once proposed that the interior walls of a room be lined with foam aluminium. The desired effect was an organic form and porous cell structure that could be illuminated from behind. The material was sourced in the arms industry, but joint research with the Fraunhofer Institute concluded that this material was unsuitable for the job.  Though extremely light, it was unfortunately also extremely rigid and therefore bend resistant. 

Instead, a mineral substance was chosen that could be easily moulded and milled. The challenge was how to calculate the required cell structure and programme the milling machine to implement it, matching the original design. The solution was provided by the Russian mathematician Georgi Feodosjewitsch Woronoi (1868 – 1908) whose legendary Voronoi-Diagramm provided the mathematical model for a porous structure. The interior surfaces were coated accordingly, creating an impression of raw aluminium. The mock-up with this unique Deutsche Werkstätten solution was approved and the room was eventually fitted out in this way.

Organic form and porous cell structure: A unique Deutsche Werkstätten solution © Photo: PR DW