Digital vase wins wood award

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The award winning digitally carved Ves-el vases

British furniture makers, craftsmen, and all-round wizards with wood, Benchmark, has won an award for its sculptural creation, the Ves-el, designed by Gareth Neal in collaboration with Zaha Hadid.

Interested in the idiosyncrasies of traditional processes and how these could be simulated through digital imitation, Neal chose to play with the form of a carafe or water carrier and turn it into something more sculptural using computer modelling software and a 5 axis CNC machine as an extension of the craftsman’s hands.

The making was a challenge: having to adapt and upgrade the CNC equipment, with the design required extensive programming by Benchmark’s in-house CNC expert and craftsman, Colin White.

It took two days for each vessel to mill, and the volume of code from the CAM system meant that the upload time accounted for nearly as much time as the making. The vessels were then hand finished and sanded.

The 2015 Wood Award joint winner of the Bespoke Category, was made as part of Benchmark’s Wish List Project with the American Hardwood Export Council, the judges stating Ves-el to be a worthy winner because of the combination of the process and the finished result which, they said, had an ‘intensity of energy’.


Taking two days for each piece to mill, the exercise was an exercise in precision 5-axis machining

The bespoke category prize was shared with Endgrain by Raw-Edges Design Studio which showcases the possibilities provided by dyeing wood instead of painting it. Staining the wood all the way through leaves it consistently saturated, so that when Endgrain gets dirty of fades in the sun, removing or sanding the top.

The winner of winners was The Fishing Hut by Niall McLaughlin Architects, taking away the coveted Arnold Laver Gold Award – as well as being top in the awards’ Private category. Other champions included the Constellations bar by Howard Miller Design in Liverpool (Commercial & Leisure category); the Observatory, Study and Workshop by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (Small Projects); and the Canary Wharf Crossrail station by Foster & Partners in London (Structural).

Find out more about the Wood Awards here.

The aim was to capture and simulate craftsmen processes using digital tools

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