Co-designed with Guy Keulemans


The primary tables (structures) were created to be very weak so that they would break easily. These weak structures are then placed under a platform upon which load is applied (a basic hands on approach of pilling brinks on top) until the structure fails and breaks. The importance of this process is to show where the weakest parts of the structure are (that being the break lines). These broken parts are then repaired in such a way that it is slightly stronger than it was before. This is done by simply fixing the break line and adding one extra layer to the front and back of the break line to create extra structural integrity. This is done only at the break lines, because the non-broken sections of the structure are already strong enough in dissipating the forces of the load and therefore are left alone. Once the structure is completely reconstructed using this method, the process of breaking is repeated; repaired, broken, repaired and so on.



When we continue this process of repeatedly breaking and repairing the shape starts to grow and develop becoming increasingly stronger over time. What happens is an evolutionary process whereby the strongest structure is created using the least amount of material needed. The same thing happens in nature; for instance a tree only grows material in the places where it is essential and never grows material on other places where the structural integrity already fulfills the demand. (You never see at the end of a branch that it all of a sudden starts becoming thicker again).

This structure is created using wooden tiles that you can break with two fingers; Because of this process you know what the perfect way is to use this weak material, and it allows you to create ridiculously strong structures which are very minimal in material use. At the thickest part it is only 4 or 5 tiles thick, and this table is able to hold hundreds of kilograms.


The process is rather time consuming and I’m often asked why I use this analogue approach and don’t just simulate the process with computer software. When we look in the industry, for instance architects and civil engineers use very complicated calculations and computer models to determine shape and the amount of material needed for their buildings, but this isn´t as precise. The physics behind why a structure breaks in a certain way or direction when placed under stress is a very complicated science. There are an infinite number of factors involved in determining how the structure will fail; the material might not always be equally strong everywhere (defects), or the connections might all be just slightly different. Perhaps humidity and temperatures differ over the structure and so on. Because you cannot calculate everything, what they do to resolve this problem is to add a margin of error. Also referred to as the safety factor. The result is a building that is always over dimensioned using more material than needed.  Because I’m not building buildings but JUST a table, I’m not concerned about safety factors and there for I can justify eliminating this safety factor. This allows for an analog approach which is much more efficient in finding the minimal amount of material needed for our structures.


The starting point is always a symmetrical shape and a lot of people expect when it starts to evolve that it would evolve in a symmetrical manner. This never happens; in fact it always starts to grow in a more organic way, sometimes growing more materials in one area and not so much in another area. This is because of all these anomalies involved. When put under a load the stresses on the table don´t move symmetrically threw the object. The forces aren’t dissipated evenly threw all the four legs and there for we see that some legs stay really thin (barely in contact with the ground/touching the ground with just one tile) whereas others become over dimensioned dissipating larger portions of the forces form the load.


The decision for this shape or material is in fact irrelevant. This can be done with any shape, any structure and any material. What is the optimum shape? There is no optimum shape; it is actually a continually changing shape. It can never be copied. Every time the process is repeated with a new table, a unique to that time, day place etc. is created. Even two trees who are standing side by side in the same environment, exposed to the same elements of wind, rain, sun are never two the same, because it takes just one little worm to loosen a small little root to have an effect on how the tree grows and changes in shape.


- Ars Electronica (Austria)

- Platform 21 (Netherlands)

- Le Lab (Netherlands)