Smith

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Location: Clerkenwell, London

Client: Clerkenwell Design Week

Project Year: 2014

Cost: 0 - 100k

Created for Clerkenwell Design Week, Smith is a pavilion and exhibition that showcases the innovative use of tools in making, from historic crafts to contemporary fabrication techniques. Throughout history, Clerkenwell has been home to an extensive range of smiths: silversmiths, goldsmiths, booksmiths, watchsmiths, clocksmiths, woodsmiths, inksmiths, and even coffeesmiths. Smith is especially interested in the creative re-appropriation of tools and equipment for new uses. During CDW, contemporary craftspeople and smiths took residence at Smith, hosting a number of workshops and demonstrations.

The pavilion itself is made from fibre-cement panels, a material invented by re-appropriating an old paper mill and spinning-machine. On the interior, CNC-cut pieces are pieced together to tell the story of the various tools and equipment used by smiths throughout Clerkenwell’s history.

Fibre-cement has a range of strengths in its material properties, but is rarely used other than as exterior cladding. Smith crafts fibre-cement with both traditional and innovative tools to test its structural properties.

In order to make the most of fibre-reinforced cement we developed Smith in close collaboration with Structural Engineers Webb Yates and Fabricators Nicholas Alexander. We found that although the material is brittle it has very good tensile properties, allowing us to experiment by using the panels as a stress skin on a timber frame. As the material is normally only used as a cladding material, we had to conduct a number of structural tests in order to check the load that the panels could take.
Fibre-reinforced cement is usually used as large panels and cut either on-site by a saw, or off-site by CNC machine. We made use of the different cutting technologies available, by using CNC milling to engrave text on the panels, and water-jet cutting to cut the large sheets into intricate pieces, which could then be pieced together, like a large jigsaw.

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