The standardisation and homogenisation of materials through industrial processing has created surroundings filled with incomprehensible surfaces. Machines render any kind of matter into flat, rectangular surfaces, stripping it of not only diverse visual and haptic stimuli but also any indication of its unique material properties. Empirical knowledge about materials, gathered over hundreds or thousands of years, was incompatible with the industrial apparatus. Today, more than a century after the onset of modernity, we find ourselves equipped with a completely new set of technologies as well as a growing awareness of the ecological and social harm caused by industrial production. Rather than adapt our materials to uniform manufacturing processes, we can use advanced design technologies to give full agency to materials—to rediscover the unique properties and possibilities that each one offers.
Split makes use of the wood’s ability to protect itself against weather and decay when it is cleft rather than sawn for outdoor objects like a bench, a swing and a table. This property is known from the traditional form of wooden roof shingles, which last decades longer than sawn tiles, even without preservatives. But the unpredictable, variable, and bare surface of cleft wood was incompatible with industrial machinery, making it more difficult to mass-produce. Sawn wood tiles, on the other hand, require finishing with preservatives and varnishes that transform a natural resource (which took 60 to 180 years to grow) into non-recyclable waste. Cleft wood is more durable without the toxic layer of preservatives, and when the object is no longer needed, it can be returned to the ecosystem to decay naturally.