Slow Joinery

Laura's film: ‘Five Hours for Five Seconds of Fifty Years’. The additive process of growth is simulated by performing the subtractive procedure of chiseling away annual rings. The reversal of this subtractive footage shows the form of the tree gradually emerging to what can be seen today.


Dissertation work of MSc Design + Make alumni Laura Welsh in the development of her dissertation ‘Slow Joinery: Design with Adaptive Growth’.

Text from Laura:

The research aims to use a living tree’s ability to strategically add material through adaptive growth opportunistically – by introducing carefully fabricated artefacts into an organic environment. The objects work with or rely on plant behaviour, and over a period of years their performance will transform and even improve. Using processes and materials which go through a ‘liquid’ state, the objects are able to diverge around a tree, rejoining back onto themselves to form a seamless, closed loop.

The first prototype was a seat made up of glue-laminated strips of western red cedar. It was built up in situ around an ash tree which forks close to the ground. The second was another seat from one pour of cast aluminium. One side of the seat has a loop cast through an old tree stump, and the other side of the seat is hooked around a sapling. It will not function as a seat until the sapling has grown big enough to bear the load. The third prototype was a gate at the south east corner of Hooke Park. The rail is a sitka spruce pole, which currently has to be lifted on and off the hinges to gain access. The gate posts are saplings and the hinges are plain bearings made up of steel and cast aluminium. The gate relies on the future growth of the sapling posts, with adaptive bulges to provide mechanical support for the hinges so that in about 10 years time the pole can be cut in the middle and the gate swung open.

Laura Welsh

Charlie Corrywright (Workshop Manager)
Christopher Sadd (Forester)
Jack Draper (Make Tutor)
Martin Self (Program Director)