top of page

Fibrous Ambiguity

Point, Line, Plane, and Space.



A piece of rice paper, a sheet of fabric and a stalk of bamboo. What do they share in common? They are all made of fiber, finely laid one on top of the other in a certain manner.


Utilizing the advantage of fiber, fiber composite material, a synthetic material that forms a continuous inner structure with fiber and matrix, can achieve complex performance both practically and spatially through diverse fiber weaving and layering techniques.

Article / Photo by Zunheng Lai and Jun Wang



From tiny electronic equipment to massive airplane shell, fiber composite material has been used across scale in many industries. However, fiber composite material has been only use as a lighter, thinner and stronger substitute to many industrial standard material, such as aluminum. During such process, material is “forced” onto a preconceived form without further consideration to its special characteristic. Working with Professor Archim Menges, our project tries to showcase the potential spatial performance of fiber composite material by exploring new spatial language, going back to the innate character of the material, understanding what it is and what it wants to become.

Fiber composite material can construct space in a similar fashion as typical abstract representation: from points to lines, from lines to planes, and then to surfaces. From our initial study, we found that such abstraction profoundly expresses the ambiguity of space: at a certain point, the space is open yet closed; it is disintegrated yet continuous. It is hard to use a singular concept to define the complexity of the space. Such quality is the innate spatial characteristic we found in fiber composite material.

Scaffold, fiber and space form our methodology of investigation. Testing various scaffolds with different algorithms of weaving, we study the type of space and its relationship to the scaffolds. We then reversely derive the intent space from the manipulation of scaffolds, forming an integrated abstract linguistic system.

Through such methodology, our investigation was as follows:

1. We went through the sequence from 2D algorithmic study, 3D algorithmic study to 3D hierarchy study, through which we understand how weaving is transformed in different dimensions and revealing its spatial constructability.

2. We utilized flexible joint in scaffolds, giving scaffold possibility to rotate more than 90 degree in one axis, and to slide laterally. The form generated with such system is a result of equilibrium force that balances between fiber composite material and the scaffold. Such system reduce the constraints of scaffolds on the expression of the material.

In retrospect, we found that “ambiguity” is expressed in different aspects of the project:

1. Through the combination of weaving algorithms, we are able to express different structural and spatial qualities in a continuous surface: self-reinforced boundary, gradients of fiber density and etc. Such surface is ambiguous, for it is hard to define the surface in a singular manner.

2. The flexibility of the scaffold makes it constantly under transformation until the force within fiber reaches equilibrium. The final form of the fiber composite is not directly linked to the starting form of the scaffold, making it unpredictable and ambiguous.

3. Such process of exploration avoids the coded architectural language and follows the abstraction of point, line, plane and space to reconstruct our way of understanding space. The space under such framework is ambiguous, for it is architectural and primitive at the same time. We hope such ambiguity can defamiliarize us with the cliché of coded architectural language and bring us back to the primitive, intuitive experience of space.

Zunheng Lai


M.Arch I AP student in GSD.

Bachelor of Science in Architecture in Alfred Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, University of Michigan, 2010

Working experience in Neri&Hu, 3XN_GXN, NAGA Architects, ZGF, etc.





Jun Wang


M.Arch I AP student in GSD.

Bachelor of Science in Architecture in University of Virginia School of Architecture, 2011

Student exhibition curator in GSD

Working experience in UNStudio, OMA, Gensler, etc.







bottom of page