Introduction: Harmony Tree

This instructable consists in a site
specific art installation that can work as a reference for detail design and digital fabrication.

Harmony School at Saltillo Mexico in need for a solution to a multipurpose 400spm space intended for use as auditorium, playground and other activities required a solution that gave identity and reflect their core values in this space. Since first instance they wanted something in relationship with nature, their first simple idea was a mural of a tree but that wouldn’t solve the issue of giving a strong statement.

This school is one of it kind with a non-traditional program of teaching, focused in a constructivism approach of education. Taking this into consideration and the understanding of their core principles and values of learning out of nature I proposed a digital prefabricated 3d sculpture of a tree. The challenge was to design and make the installation in a 4 week period.

The installation consist in a 21 laser cut sheets of 8’ x 4’1/5” plywood to assemble wooden interweave ribs in a Fibonacci floor plan pattern based the school’s logo shield a nautilus shell. About 80 laser cut origami birds where hanged from the ceiling resembling the colors of the School’s brand identity. The lighting proposal consists in 30 existing lamps rotated in their own axis oriented to the tree’s core.

The design process developed to be more complex form. The use of a 3d parametric grasshopper script, based on 4 horizontal radial sections connected in a helicoidal form. The radius and parameters where adjusted to its space proportions considering the existing structure, lightning, and A/C pipes.

This project was completed thanks to the team:

Alejandro Madero- Architect & Creative Director -Concept Design, Detail Design- Prototipes & Construction

Alejandro Arcos - Architect - Detail Design, Prototipes & Construction

Veronica Rodriguez - Industrial Designer- Detail Design, Prototipes & Construction

Step 1: 1:1 Material Testing Prototypes.

After assembling the first prototype we tried different intersections and junctions for the actual model. Some of them are appreciated on the pictures.

  • All of the pictures are from 1:1 size pieces.
  • Picture #1 Intersection made with ¼" thickness steel plates. We notice it provided good intersection and support, but it prevented the wood from curving naturally, distorting the final shape of the tree.
  • Picture #2 Intersections made by cutting out space 5mm in between each piece leaving space for bending and twisting.
  • Picture #3 Segment junction using only 6mm plywood, screws, nuts, and washers.

Step 2: 1:10 Test Model

Every big project requires prototyping, so this was no exception. At the time, prototyping contributed specific characteristic about the model. Some of the details we were able to notice were material behavior, structural construction, intersections and junctions so we got our hands on it.

Model scale 1:10.

Step 3: Intersecctions

Try, error and repeat until the desired intersection was accomplished.

Intersecting pieces this way means less weight and continuity to the structure. Respecting natural behavior of wood. Used 6mm plywood.

*Key factor was to secure the intersections with zip ties.

Step 4: Junction

Joining the 6mm plywood pieces this way works as unique pieces, giving continuity to the branching structure. Perforations are previously laser cut (1/4") to achieve a precise junction.

Material used 6mm plywood sheets, screws, nuts, and washers.

Step 5: Laser Cut and Organize Pieces From the Tree

Step 6: Structure Core Pieces

Prefab structure core consisting of 3 wooden and steel bases, these 3 bases are anchored to the column and/or wall and a wooden base anchored to the floor (12mm plywood sheets).

Step 7: Lateral Structure Core Pieces

Prefabricate the 12 lateral wall supports (6 different shapes and sizes x2)

Step 8: Structure Core Assembly

Assembly structure core consisting of 3 tier base (wooden and steel) and 12 steel bases anchored to the wall. Each tier will bring support and dictates the path for the tree branches. Measure and mark distance for the column and lateral bases. Drill and anchor the bases to the wall

Step 9: Measuring and Marking Birds

In the mean while measurements and preparation are being done for the birds. Birds hang from the ceiling on the thread rods attached by clamps, 3 meter long wires are also cut and mesure to function as support points for the upper branching from the tree.

Step 10: Tree Skeleton Assembly Phase 1

The assembly of the tree must be done by sections bottom to top. Just as shown in the diagram.

The pieces of the tree were each named individually in order to make assembling easier. If you observe the diagram, pieces go right to left and left to right. Each set consisting on different labeling. Pieces left to right have letters. Pieces right to left have numbers and all the pieces intersect in a radial shape labeled by roman numbers.

Step 11: Hanging Birds

Simultaneously while building the skeleton tree one must also hang the birds from the ceiling with the clamps, don´t forget the tree wires to ancore the upper branching. Once having the branching put together is harder to get to the ceiling with the overpassing hight of the scaffold.

Step 12: Complete Diagram Assembly

Step 13: Material and Equipment List

Materials for the tree

  • 19 6mm Okoume plywood sheets
    3 4” steel plates ⅛” thickness
  • 1 4” steel plate ¼” thickness
  • 9 2” self drilling bolts for concrete ¾”
  • 24 2” expansion plugs and screws ¼”
  • 650 1” screws ¼”
  • 650 ¼” nuts
  • 1300 ¼” washers
  • 90 ¼” threaded rod 3m long

  • 8 pulleys

Materials for birds

  • 80 ¾" clamps for ¼” threaded rod
  • 15 3mm corrugated plastic sheets
  • 80 ¼” nuts

  • 160 ¼” washers


  • Welding machine
  • Laser cutting machine
  • Welding machine
  • Angle grinder polishing machine
  • Drill 2 Drill bits (¾” for concrete, ¼” wood and steel)
  • 2 scaffold towers
  • 2 safety harness + ropes
Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Wood Contest 2016