Thursday, November 24, 2011

Oriented Strand Board

About twenty years ago while walking along the streets of Detroit, I came across a construction site partioned off for safety with oriented strand board. OSB was meant to be an inexpensive replacement for plywood as a sheathing material . . . which meant it was intended to be a sub-surface structural material to be covered up with another "final" finish. But, I fell in love with its visual texture and thought it should be freed of its cover-up.

At the time I was working on portions of the interiors of the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital for my employer, The Smith Group. It was a surprisingly contemporary building for a government project and the clients allowed the lead design architect, Jerry Rheinbold, creative license enough to design a sculptural glass chapel located inside the atrium among many other fabulous features. Jon, the model maker and "materials tester", and I played around with the OSB; rubbing dry pigments into to the face to colorize it, trying out different clear finishes to smooth the finish to the touch, etc. It did seem like it would be suitable to use as an interior wall finish. So, my schematic design for the lunchroom included colorized OSB paneling and was happily accepted by the client.

Shortly, I left for a European year long leave of absence in the middle of the project so I never saw it to fruition (not only was the client good to work with, The Smith Group was great to work for and encouraged such experiences). I did come back to my position briefly at The Smith Group  and happily saw that the designer that took over my role in the project had kept the OSB design element. But, I moved to Colorado a few short months after that have never seen all of the interior photos of this project (it was over a million square feet ~ a lot of cool spaces to photograph!) and don't know if the OSB survived the evolution of the design.

I am still in love with the look of OSB. It has since been appreciated by many others for its appearance and has been used over and over for a final finish. Here is just one of the many thousands that I've come across. This is Bricks headquarters in Amsterdam:

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