An overview of Hooke Park

Hooke Park is the Architectural Association’s woodland site in Dorset, southwest England. The 150-hectare working forest is owned and operated by the AA and contains a growing educational facility for design, workshop, construction and landscape-focused activities.  Underlying these activities is the opportunity to develop new rural architectures and an ethic of material self-sufficiency.

Today the campus presents a 30-year history of experimental timber construction and rural architecture. Under the previous ownership of the Parnham Trust’s School for Woodland Industries, three remarkable demonstrations of round-wood construction were built: the Prototype House (1987), Workshop (1989) and Dormitory (1996), which offer a valuable legacy and point of reference for today’s students. Following the transition of ownership to the AA in 2002, the masterplan for campus development was redrawn and continues, with new workshop and accommodation facilities – the Caretaker’s House (2012) and the Timber Seasoning Shelter (2014) among them – designed and built by students of the AA’s Design + Make masters programmes.

Hooke Park is used by the AA throughout the year for activities in three categories: visits by London-based units; the Hooke Park-based Design + Make graduate school programme; and for Visiting School short courses.  As well as being integral to the AA, Hooke Park is also part of the larger cultural and making community of West Dorset through its public programme of evening lectures, symposia, concerts and open days Hooke Park.

The Architectural Association School of Architecture was originally set up in 1847 as a public forum and learned society, in/famously founded by ‘a pack of troublesome students’. The UK’s oldest school of architecture, today it hosts about 750 students mainly based in Bedford Square, London. The AA, a registered charity, is also a vibrant membership organisation comprising more than 4500 members and, through AA Publications, a publisher of books and journals.

On-site lodging is provided for students and guests working at Hooke Park. Westminster Lodge dormitory accommodates 16 people in eight rooms each with two single beds, a toilet, shower and wash basin.  There is a large communal room with a wood-burning stove. For longer-term use, an additional pair of two-bedroom student lodges were completed by the Design & Make programme in 2014.

Food at Hooke Park is provided in its refectory and cooked in the kitchen managed by Georgie Corry Wright.  Many of the ingredients come from the kitchen garden or farmers in the local area, and the food is generally vegetarian to be inclusive to a broad range of diets.  On some evenings, when the refectory kitchen takes a break, there is a barbecue and pizza oven for groups to use and historic village pubs nearby.

Days are normally set around the workshop opening times which are 9-5 and lunch at 1. We aim for everyone on site to share lunch together. The workshop machinery is switched off in the evening however the studio space can remain open.

Occasional lectures, open days and events break the monthly routine and provide a chance for local residents and students to come together.  For a week at Christmas, a week over Easter and a week in August Hooke Park is closed to all staff and students.

Hooke is sited within an active farming community, close to the market towns of Beaminster and Bridport and a few miles inland from the Jurassic Coast – a UNESCO world heritage site. This historic rural landscape context provides a unique alternative to the conventional urban focus of city-based architecture schools.

West Dorset is renowned for is rich craft and making traditions, food and rural cultures which we draw upon for designing, making and life at Hooke.  The local communities along the River Toller  use Hooke woodlands as a leisure resource and we supply many local sawmills and timber users.

The distinctive landscape of sharp deep valleys leading down to the sweeping coast is a result of the clay and sand deposits that now form the underlying geology of Hooke Park.  This geomorphology provides an underlying link between the dairy farming and grasslands surrounding Hooke and the nature of the forest and natural ecosystems under the tree canopy

The AA is continuing to develop Hooke Park as a unique place for learning, experimentation and self-sufficiency. This development consists of a number of strands:

  • continued growth of the built campus, following the masterplan for Hooke Park
  • broadening of the academic programmes at Hooke Park
  • new landscaping initiatives to integrate the campus within the woodland landscape
  • develop advanced timber design and fabrication technologies, inlcuding a new robotic fabrication cell in 2014
  • become a site for a new, evolving, discourse in ruralism and land-based art

These plans were formulated in a Strategic Plan for Hooke Park (2008) and the Implementation Plan (2014).

The Architectural Association is very grateful to its donors and supporters who are making this development possible. If you are interested in supporting the AA’s work at Hooke Park. please contact us at hookepark@aaschool.ac.uk