Water Resistant Wood

Keep seeing references to new(ish) wood products that use natural wood and an alternative process to pressure treating and produce a better performing material. This may be an option for outdoor structures or a water table experience where we’d like to clad a stainless or concrete basin with a more natural material or perhaps even build a table out of wood (was that Steve Langsdorf I just heard groaning?).

If the specs are true, this material is substantially better than pressure treated. Here’s two products that are getting a lot of press the last few years:



  • Swelling and shrinkage reduced by 75% or more
  • Lasting 50 years above ground, 25 years in ground/freshwater Class 1 durability, surpassing even teak
  • Virtually rot proof
  • 70 year minimum service life stated by TRADA




  • swelling and shrinkage reduced by 40-60%
  • outdoor life time warranty for 30 years
  • no additional treatment needed beyond normal cleaning
  • high resistance against fungi, rot and other wood destroying micro-organisms


– Sean


Iconic Visitor Created Paper Structures


This company specializes in creating simple geometric forms that visitors can assemble and combine into large integrated structures. Could apply to Maker, Engineering, Art, Physics content, among others, as well as special themed events (i.e. a riff on Cardboard City). They don’t seem to be exploiting the decoration aspect of such structures, which could add richness, originality and personalization to the work. They also produce a variety of small Maker style projects i.e. individual stools or lamps, that would seem to be nearly fool proof yet satisfying activities. Hat tip to Joseph for this one.

Here’s the company:


And a post on a recent installation:


A few pics from various projects below:






Lego Building

Came across 2 lego building exhibits recently, one great and one terrible, and I think they are instructive. First the great one, it’s called Legos: Towers of Tomorrow and was created by a museum in Sydney. What’s working here?

  • Clean, well lit, inviting space. Activity focus is clear
  • Nicely designed work areas-the lit center lego “pond” bins are a nice touch
  • Iconic inspiration structures build into work areas
  • Location for visitor built structures to be displayed / celebrated (center round table)
  • Nice balance in space density, plenty of room to move around but still dense enough to feel rich and active
  • Simple but effective, large scenic wall graphics
  • The fact that so much space is dedicated to this simple activity elevates it in a way that makes it feel special and focuses attention on the act of building
  • Design easily accommodates group or open general public mode
  • Gallery is probably ~ 3000 sq ft, and I’d be surprised if the furniture, graphics, and models cost more than $100,000 total. That’s $33/ sq ft. And if the models were donated, total cost might be half that




Nice TimeLapse of space in use during one day:

Here’s another version of the same idea, from the Toytopia exhibit currently at Orlando Science Center. What’s not working here:

  • Poor space planning, feels plopped down in sea of other displays, hard to focus on the activity with this space / furniture design -it feels like an afterthought.
  • Building area and prop storage occupy the same space, which is messy and uninviting
  • Inspiration elements in the display case are not very inspiring
  • No place for visitor build structures to be displayed or celebrated


The scale of these two exhibits are different, so the size comparison might be unfair, but that aside, one can imagine the concept description or SD activity narrative for these two experiences sounded very similar. The outcomes are different (I believe) because one execution shows a focus on inspiring visitors and designing an experience that caters to their aspirations and needs (and probably spend a decent amount of time polishing that idea) while the other was just phoned in -someone wrote down “open-ended Lego building activity” and that sounded good enough (visitors like to build with legos and open-ended experiences are always educationally valid, right?), but there wasn’t any respect for visitor usage or desire to inspire in the design execution, so the result is a display that’s essentially ignored, lost in a sea of other mediocre displays that don’t hold anyone’s interest for very long. – Sean

Laser cut wood panels – Lightwave Laser

We’re looking to use this company for some decorative elements on the CMOM Muslim Culture project. They can cut any pattern, up to 4′ x 8′ in size, in plywood or MDF. A .75″ thick 4′ x 8′ painted panel is about $1000. Smaller panels are far cheaper and they can do custom patterns based on our designs. The main benefit I see (other than cost) is the laser has no effective minimum radius like a CNC router bit would, so you can obtain very precise angles and cuts. Can imagine this production technique being a useful for all manner of backlit applications, screens, and decorative elements – Sean






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Thermoform Corian examples

I know I’m often the one casting a skeptical eye when corian is suggested as exhibit furniture material, but for project that can afford it, it’s certainly a useful material and this is a pretty good example of how to use it well. Shouldn’t underestimate the amount of finishing required though -it looks like those guys were sanding for days…

Here’s another example of a simpler thermoform element -probably best when experimenting with the technique to start with something small like this:

I wonder if there are any shops in town that have an oven if we wanted to try this technique on a future project as building the forms, it seems, would be pretty easy for us if we had access to an oven.

– Sean