Steampunk installation, TAB 2019

Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2019 – Beauty Matters

The theme ‘Beauty Matters’ was set by chief curator Yael Reisner to remind us of architecture as an aesthetic experience. As architecture often seems to be focused on moral and political aspects of design, Reisner aims to bring attention back to the concept of beauty. The Biennale offers an energising program of talks and events and an inspiring exhibition showcased at the Museum of Estonian Architecture.

Winner of the pavilion competition, ‘Steampunk’ installed in front Museum of Estonian Architecture

The exhibition inside the museum consists of installations by international architects including Sou Fujimoto, SOMA, Kadri Kerge and Barnaby Gunning. One of the highlights is the experimental timber construction, installed in front of the museum. The wooden installation ‘Steampunk’ is the winner of a competition to create a pavilion using wood as material. It was conceived by a team, where designers and architects experimented with computational design in order to explore new technological possibilities. The brief for the competition was to design a ‘primitive hut’, an idea derived from the historical discourse of architecture, but interpreted for today. The competition allows young architects to experiment and research around material possibilities and techniques. A selection of shortlisted entries is exhibited within the museum. The ways in which they demonstrate ‘beauty’ is an interesting matter and shows how notions of beauty are wide and varied. The team behind the winning design explain: “The beauty of the project lies in this tension: when to give and take, when to adhere to preconceived design intent and when to abandon precision and begin to react” – hence it’s all about the process.


Steampunk installation, Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2019
Steampunk installation, Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2019, from above

The pavilion is created with steam-bent wooden boards of 100 x 10 mm, bound together into a sculptural form, that can be entered and explored from various view points. It is a kind of futuristic vision of the modernist bent-ply aesthetic, created with a digital system, in which no physical drawings were made. It plays with surface and volume in the form of a sculptural giant timber knot. The winning design is a collaboration with a team of young designers and architects based in London, and Fologram, a design research practice and technology startup. Fologram is a Melbourne-based company, which builds software for artistic and architectural projects. For the experimental installation holographic models were used in the construction process.

Made of steam bent wood, with digital technology


The team behind Steampunk: Gwyllim Jahn, Cameron Nenham, Someen Hahm, Igor Pantic

The winning team used robotics and a very high-tech approach, while working with a natural material. The result shows how technological interventions interact with material reality. It’s a deliberate gesture showcasing robotic production and automation, while experimenting with precision and intentionality. From a neo-kantian viewpoint, beauty is definitely a relative matter, and here extended beyond the product itself into the process of production.

Each strip is bent using a holographic model

Tallinn Architecture Biennale

Exhibition open until 17.11.2019 at Museum of Estonian Architecture