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Designed by Richard Burton of ABK and Frei Otto, with the engineers Buro Happold, the workshop uses spruce thinnings to form a vault from a series of compression arches. The result is a remarkable long-span enclosure built using low-value material from the surrounding forest. Two of the three bays of the roof accommodate a fully equipped timber workshop while the third contains studio space, office facilities and a small library.

Technical Details

The 600sqm workshop building consists of three timber shells covered in a heavily insulated double-skin PVC membrane roof. The arches that form each bay are arrayed in a fan-like arrangement and are of spruce thinnings of typically 100-150mm diameter. Initally straight, and fixed at their bases, pair of these elements were bend downwards to form the arching curve and a central third element spliced in at the crown. A longitudinal rooflight, of Makrolon panels, runs along this crown, the upstand of which houses an inflatable ‘sausage’ that it deflated in hot weather to allow natural ventilation.  This is aided by openable low level soffit window panels along the building edges.

The foundations and slab are of reinforced concrete and the floor includes underfloor heating.  The two eastern bays for the main workshop shop and the western bay contains studio space for students and an office space on a mezzanine.  The end bays are of glass and Makrolon panels.

Now 25 years old, the building has needed remarkably little maintenance given its experimental nature. It is heavily used throughout the year by AA students at Hooke Park.

Project Credits

Architects: Richard Burton (ABK) and Frei Otto

Engineers: Ted Happold and Michael Dickson (Buro Happold)