Synthetic Bark

Synthetic Bark translates the function and form of tree bark into high-performance architectural cladding.

Bark provides multiple functions to trees, including thermal insulation and physical protection from vermin and fires (in the case of thick bark). Outer bark, which is made of mostly dead tissues of the tree, is characterized by many folds and veins, and therefore exhibits a large surface area when compared with a flat material of the same size.

Bark offers lessons for architecture, both in its function and form. Synthetic Bark architectural cladding is a composite system that combines exterior protection and insulation. Taking cues from bark’s intricate morphology, the new cladding utilizes a bark-like topological structure to anticipate and control cracking and weathering (like micro-scaled control joints). Based on its contouring, a Synthetic Bark panel is inherently stronger than the same-sized flat panel of the same material. Moreover, this varied profile increases the available surface area for environmental remediation—such as the photocatalysis of air pollutants and filtration of rain water.

Synthetic Bark is not a product, but an approach. The biomimetic cladding can be realized in a wide variety of materials, based on the digitization of different kinds of outer tree bark and the translation of these geometries into digitally-fabricated architectural panels.

Bark synthesized: the translation process from tree bark to a digitally-fabricated architectural panel.
Synthesized bark panels in white glass reinforced fiber composite (GFRC)—pollution streaks remain in the valleys.
Synthesized oak bark panels in green precast concrete.

Challenges:
* some materials may prove difficult to keep clean
* could be visually disruptive for some audiences
Benefits:
* provides enhanced rigidity and protection over conventional cladding
* hides cracking and pollution streaking better than conventional cladding
* increases effectiveness of photocatalysis and storm water filtration

References:
http://www.botgard.ucla.edu/html/botanytextbooks/generalbotany/barkfeatures/fulltextonly.html