The Answer to Sustainable Building Could Lie in Geometry

Solar Stage—one of Wonderfruit’s most iconic venues—is constructed without nails, screws, or fixings. It’s one of the magically modular monuments of architect and designer Gregg Fleishman, who’s deduced a way to create bold structures in a more sustainable way by simply harnessing geometry.

Well, not entirely simply. There is a lot more to it than drafting triangles and hoping for the best. Within the forms that Gregg makes use of in his many designs—seen at Wonderfruit, Burning Man, and at discerning spaces around the world—is a unique and natural ability to be assembled, disassembled, and reassembled without the need for traditional construction fixings. Which makes for more sustainable production and completion.

But how is it more sustainable to use no nails? Nails, screws, plates, bolts, and all other kinds of permanent fixtures used in wooden construction use a lot of metallic resources in their manufacturing. These metal objects are heavy, generating a larger emissions footprint in transport. Their raw materials must be extracted from the ground in large-scale commercial mining operations. The galvanizing process is energy-intensive. None of this is to say that we should do away with fastenings and fixings altogether, but it does paint a picture of a large ecological impact for the usual way of building things. By cleverly designing around naturally strong and modular shapes, Gregg’s work can stand strong and be reimagined in myriad configurations without ever sacrificing extra material or the structural integrity of the parts themselves.

In the case of our beloved Solar Stage, the modular structure is reconfigured into new shapes and spaces each year using the same pieces, like a giant lego set. The stage itself, the climbable structures which surround it, even the furniture—it’s all designed within the same principles. The pieces flat pack into two shipping containers, ready to be reconfigured again. It’s brilliant, it is tidy, and it’s all possible thanks to the incredible (and mysterious) properties of triangles. The strength of the shape means that Solar Stage can support its own weight without a concrete foundation, can be stacked together in any array of shapes, and never requires any additional resources or intervention to stay up—so there’s no extra material to mine, melt, transport, and recycle after all is said and done, and no holes need to be dug. The individual pieces are all crafted from renewable timber, which further decreases the ecological footprint.

It’s clever, and thanks to the many years Gregg has spent meticulously documenting and studying the geometry it’s possible that future construction could take a few leaves out of his sketchbook when designing structures in a more sustainable, low-impact way.

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