Designing and Fabricating Contemporary Timber Structures – Learning from Europe’s Best – Nov 19-20 2015

Two Days of Special Seminars on Freeform Timber Design

CAWP, in collaboration with WoodWORKS! BC, is pleased to present two days of workshops at UBC led by two of Europe’s foremost practitioners in computer-aided design and prefabrication of timber elements for contemporary wood structures. The event will highlight what can be achieved with timber using the latest design and fabrication technologies, and will illustrate this in illuminating detail through references to a range of high-profile projects that the presenters have undertaken, as well as to a demonstration structure that will be fabricated on Day 2 using CAWP’s Hundegger Robot Drive CNC timber joinery machine. The seminar will be presented in an informal environment that will encourage detailed questions and comments from attendees.

Nine Bridges Golf Club, Korea

Nine Bridges Golf Club, Korea, designed by Shigeru Ban,with computer modelling and fabrication carried out by the presenters)

The Presenters and their Projects

Fabian Scheurer, is a Founding Partner of the firm designtoproduction, based in Zurich, Switzerland. The mandate of designtoproduction is to “support architects, planners, engineers, and contractors
in the efficient design and production of non-standard architecture”. To achieve this, the firm uses sophisticated parametric computer aided design models and offers consulting services on parametric planning, detailing, optimization, and digital manufacturing.

The company has been involved in numerous high-profile timber construction projects around the world that feature complex geometries and challenging fabrication tasks. Among them is the Centre Pompidou Metz, designed by renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and featuring an 8,000m2 roof with 18,000 linear metres of wooden beams individually “braided” together through CNC fabrication. designtoproduction created a reference geometry model of the roof and provided the timber construction company with the necessary CAD tools to efficiently detail and produce nearly 1,800 doubly-curved wooden glulam segments. designtoproduction also worked on the Shigeru Ban project Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club House in Yeoju, South Korea, which involved 21 slender columns supporting 32 roof elements, assembled from more than 3,500 intricately detailed glulam elements prefabricated in Switzerland.

Other projects by the firm include the Kilden Performing Arts Center in Kristiansand, Norway, featuring a 3,500m2 waved timber wall designed by ALA Architects. In close cooperation with timber fabrication specialists, designtoproduction developed a pre-fabrication and assembly concept for the wooden facade, created a parametric 3D model containing all 14,309 glue-laminated girders and twisted oak boards, and delivered the data required for their CNC fabrication.

Martin Antemann is the Deputy Director of the Free Forms Department of Blumer-Lehmann, located in Gossau, Switzerland. Blumer-Lehmann is a 140-year old company specialising in timber buildings – from housing and commercial, industrial and agricultural structures to public buildings and free form structures. The Free Forms Department engineers and fabricates unique wood structures for clients around the globe, using world-leading CNC production knowledge and technology. The firm has worked in partnership with designtoproduction on many of its projects. Antemann was the project manager for the Tamedia building in Zurich, an iconic seven-storey office building designed by Shigeru Ban and located in the heart of Zurich. Tamedia is a contemporary building featuring a structural system designed entirely of timber beams and columns, with connections borrowing from traditional Japanese joinery and functioning, in the words of the architect ‘like a building set’. Antemann and his team are well-known for taking on projects that involve CNC fabrication challenges that others balk at. Some of the team’s other projects are profiled at .




The workshop on day one will be held seminar-style, and will feature a series of 45-minute presentation sessions by Fabian and Martin, covering the topics outlined below. The event is intended to be interactive, and questions are welcomed throughout.

9am – Introduction to the workshop

  • Welcome, introduction of participants
  • Presentation of freeform timber projects by LTC/D2P
  • Expectations

9.45am – Freeform Geometry

Explanation of geometric concepts (by example)

  • Arcs vs. spline curves, curvature
  • Meshes vs. NURBS surfaces, surface curvature
  • Classes of surfaces: planar, single curved, ruled, double curved
  • Definition of geometry (curves / master surface)

10.30 – Coffee Break

10.45am- Materializing Curvature

Turning straight sticks and planar sheets into curved components:

  • Segmenting
  • Cutting
  • Bending / laminating
  • Milling
  • Stiff members vs. elastic bending
  • Sourcing

Definition of structure (straight members)

12.15am – Planning Tools

Planning free-form structures

  • Mesh vs. Nurbs = Cadwork vs. Rhino
  • Parametrics with Grasshopper
  • Interfaces (Rhino – Cadwork – others)


  • Definition of member geometry and joints
  • Quantity take-off

1pm – Lunch break

2pm – Structural Modeling

  • How to calculate engineering values for complex structures


  • Dimensioning of members
  • Definition of requirements for joints

2.45pm – Design for Manufacturing and Assembly

How to detail complex structures

  • Pre-Fabrication & Pre-Assembly
  • Assembly first: Think backwards from the site
  • Worst case first: the most difficult node sets the standard
  • Parametric details


  • Identification of “worst” joints and members with respect to manufacturing and assembly
  • Definition of joint details

3.30pm – Coffee Break

3.45pm – Fabrication Planning

4.30pm –  CAD to CAM

5.15pm – Beer and Wine, Networking



Two sessions will run in parallel on Day 2, one focusing on software and the other on fabrication. For practical reasons each session is limited to 12 participants.

9am to 1.45pm – Parallel Hands on Sessions

Software Session – Modelling Freeform Timber

Since the available timber-specific CAD/CAM solutions have difficulties in dealing with complex free-form geometries, the all-purpose modeling software Rhinoceros™ by McNeill has become somewhat of a Swiss knife for working with NURBS and splines in the design and building sector. Especially since the introduction of its parametric modeling extension Grasshopper it has gained the attention of AEC students and professionals all over the world. For designtoproduction, Rhino has been the core tool for many years and this workshop will give some hands on examples of how to exploit its capabilities for modeling freeform-timber structures and how to connect to both CAE and CAM workflows.

Participants should bring their own laptop with Rhino and Grasshopper installed (a 90-day Evaluation version of Rhino is available for download, Grasshopper is free). Participants should be reasonably familiar with Rhino and have a basic idea about Grasshopper.

(Evaluation versions of Woodpecker and BTL-viewer will be provided if possible).

Fabrication Session – participants will work in the CAWP machine lab with Martin, using the Hundegger Robot Drive timber processing centre. During the fabrication participants will have the opportunity to discuss specific challenges in detail.

  • Fabrication of members
  • Logistics (numbering, stacking)
  • Quality management

12pm to 12.45pm – Lunch Break

12.45pm – final part of breakout workshops

1.45pm – Groups come back together for assembly of pavilion

4pm – Discussion / review / final questions and debrief

5pm – Networking and refreshments


Who Should Attend?

  • Architects, designers, engineers and graduate students wishing to learn about effective ways of using digital design and manufacturing tools to produce innovative timber-based structures
  • Manufacturers who use 3D CAD and/or CNC-controlled timber processing equipment or are considering investing in such technology


Registration Fees

$179 for the Day One workshop

$119 to attend either Day Two session

Registration Form


For AIBC Members: Info on Learning Units available for this workshop can be obtained from AIBC.

Please email CAWP at or call us at 1-866-822-2297 (Toll Free) should you have any questions about this workshop.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Gain an awareness of the kinds of innovative freeform timber architectural projects being executed in Europe and around the world
  2. Learn how to use 3D modeling software to design timber structures incorporating complex freeform geometries
  3. Understand how to create curved surfaces using rectilinear lumber, beams and wood-based panels
  4. Become familiar with the range of software-based planning tools available to designers of freeform timber structures and the pros, cons and most appropriate uses for each one
  5. Understand the considerations that must be borne in mind at the design stage to plan for efficient, accurate and cost-effective manufacturing and assembly of freeform timber structures, and describe some best practices 


Venue Information

Centre for Advanced Wood Processing (1st Floor, Simulation Lab)

Forest Sciences Centre, 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC. V6T 1Z4

Directions and Parking:


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