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Sawmill Shelter

The Sawmill Shelter roof canopy forms a test-bed for the prototyping of structural systems that will be deployed in the next planned construction at Hooke Park – a lecture hall and library to become the academic centre of the campus. Inspired by the Prototype House, students investigated the limits of timber in tension – fabricating a lightweight anticlastic timber net which spans nearly 11 meters while made up of timber laths of just 38x38mm in section. To avoid imperfections, the laths were assembled from short sections using a glued finger-jointed scarfed splice. The structure adjusted, each lath carries up to two tonnes of tension, demonstrating the remarkable strength of wood under tension.

Parallel research by student En-Kai Kuo explored the use of large-scale steam bending of whole trees. By slicing the end of tree trunks into laminas, steaming those laminas, and bending them around an adjustable bending jig a curve of 50 to 110cm radius could be formed in the 25cm diameter logs. A set of 18 of these elements were used to support at one end of the canopy. The roof surface is clad with 1mm aluminum sheet panels backed by CNC-patterned 6mm plywood and riveted together.

The Sawmill Shelter was shortlisted for the 2017 Wood Awards.