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PTOLEMi (3D Reciprocal Structure)

Australian Timber Design Awards 2016 - Excellence in Timber Design

Designed & Produced: Rebekah Araullo


In today's society and economic climate, innovative design typologies and methodologies can pose powerful solutions in the exploration for sustainable developments within the built environment

PTOLEMi are curved wall structures made of interlocking plywood panels that uses an algorithm based on a reciprocal system. As a complex spaceframe, these structures offer a site-specific spatial intervention.  


The curved and sloping grid of the design makes each component unique in profile which were pre-fabricated and labelled with a number system.  Designed for a 5-axis CNC router, each panel was digitally fabricated for timely delivery and accuracy.


These structures stand at 3.8 meters with a 6.4 meter diameter without fasteners such as nails or screws, as integrated into the algorithm is a mechanism that interlocks the panels and contributes to its structural efficiency.  


To enable the use of planar off-the-shelf material, these curved walls are faceted.  Horizontal members use 15mm structural ply along the exterior and interior faces.  They intersect with vertical members made of 25mm structural ply that function as columns.   Each member interlocks with at least three other members via notches at intersection events.  These notches are assymetrically engineered for stability and to fasten each member together. 

Exterior panels are layered with 0.8mm stainless steel in mirror finish (complimets of Steelcolor,Italy), similarly locked in place through notches of intersecting panels.

The integration of innovative practices in this project enables basic materials such as plywood to be featured in a sophisticated design. 

Installed on Campbell’s Cove, for Vivid Sydney, currently exhibited at UNSW along the University Walk.


Engineer: Arup

Steel: Steelcolor, Italy

Lighting: Media Facade, China

Copyright  :  All Rights Reserved
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