Two people meet each other: under favourable circumstances this can result in a relationship that changes both of them. Or: two vehicles meet; they come too close to each other, and the result is material damage. To use the language of philosophy: when two objects connect a third object can be created, which in turn exerts an effect on the original two. Here it is irrelevant whether this third object is material or abstract.
The situation with jointing in timber construction is similar: when two rods engage each other they are always changed, and the junction that results is more than the sum of the elements that determine it. This applies both to connections made by the carpenter and those designed by the engineer. Even where a junction is simply the result of working on the ends of the rods, the new “connection” is a new, third entity.
Modernism has taken account of this situation in a single-sided way, to the benefit of the junction. It almost seems as if modernism’s interest in the “objective” tended more to isolate things from each other instead of bringing them closer together. Between the junctions an emptiness developed. Naturally, modernism can also offer different examples. For instance, Jean Prouvé, the French master of pressing metal sheets into shape, internalized the principle of the retroactive multiplication referred to above. His designs are object lessons in mutual adaptation and the formal penetration of building elements
It took almost half a century before such a high degree of integration could be achieved again, but now wooden rods have taken the place of metal sheets. Thanks to CNC-directed production and in view of CO2-minimised budgets it is noticeable that timber connections are increasingly showing sculptural qualities, not all that different to handcrafted form-making. Alongside the junctions in the building fabric it is again the rods that are attracting designers’ attention. That the forces at work in the complex connections also shape the rods is excellently illustrated by the twisted cross sections of the roof beams in the Max Felchlin AG company headquarters by Meili, Peter & Partner, which inspired us in producing this issue. While we were examining this model building news reached us of the death of Marcel Meili. We will pay tribute to his work in the next issue. — Tibor Joanelly, Roland Züger