Guan Lee is an architect, lecturer, founder of Grymsdyke Farm and co-director of UCL Bartlett’s Material Architecture Lab (M-A-L). He believes that “material exploration is fundamental to material innovation”. He thus explores digital fabrication in conjunction with hands-on building processes using a range of materials, including clay, concrete and plaster. Grymsdyke Farm, in Lacey Green, Buckinghamshire, was created to establish and explore the value of a collective living and working practice. That involves an intimate engagement with materials and processes of making in a specific place. Through the farm, in collaboration with M-A-L, Guan has created inventive uses of materials such as hempcrete – a hemp-based concrete alternative.
These collaborations seek to expose, articulate and demonstrate the essential connections between processes of design, making and place. For Guan, speculative and intuitive approaches to material manipulation for their own sake are as important as the demand for practicality and functionality. Materials produced through experimentation at the farm include lightweight architectural ceramics created by mixing dust collected from CNC milling with clay. These clay mixtures can be fired almost wet and can achieve a final thickness far beyond objects made with traditional clay. Another material sees recyclable plastic combined with offcut denim to create ornamental bricks. These can be sliced into different thicknesses for different applications from structural elements to decorative veneer.