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Timber Seasoning Shelter

The Timber Seasoning Shelter is a canopy for the stacked drying of Hooke Park sourced timber for future construction projects. Built from Hooke Park’s beech trees, the project was used by Design & Make students as a vehicle to test the innovative use of steam-bent timber elements in a reciprocal grid structure.

The canopy is constructed from a reciprocal grid of steam-bent lamellas fabricated from Hooke Park’s beech trees (fagus sylvatica), and provides rain-shelter for stacked timber to air-dry in preparation for use in future student-designed buildings at the site.

Technical Details

The canopy is constructed from a reciprocal grid of steam-bent lamellas fabricated from Hooke Park’s beech trees (fagus sylvatica), and provides rain-shelter for stacked timber to air-dry in preparation for use in future student-designed buildings at the site.

The project developed following the students’ investigation into the forestry activities of the Hooke Park woodland and it’s potential for providing construction material. The annual thinning of European Beech trees planted in the 1950s creates large volumes of timber with value only as firewood, despite being one of the strongest and hardest species grown in England. Identifying a long tradition of its use in steam bent furniture, the students began to research methods for using Beech in an architectural construction. They designed an adjustable pneumatic steam bending jig that allowed each 2m-long plank to be bent to a unique curvature according to its place within the structure. The students worked with the Hooke Park forester to identify specific trees to be felled for the project within the greater forest management scheme. The hexagonal reciprocal pattern meant that a continuous structure could be built out of relatively short pieces of timber – the maximum length of reasonably quality that could be viably extracted from the felled trees.

As a timber species, beech has great strength properties but rarely used in construction due to concerns over its durability. In this project the beech has been treated with boron, an inert deterrent to fungal and insect attack, and is protected from rain but is exposed visually to allow on-going inspection of the material. Bath University’s engineering department carried out mechanical testing on the timber to determine how the act of steam bending affects the structural behaviour of the wood.

Large patches of the roof were pre-assembled and then craned into position and stitched together in-situ. The construction work was carried out by the Design & Make students themselves and with participants in the AA’s SummerBuild programme. The PVC-polyester membrane is tensioned by ‘push-ups’ formed by extensions of the bolts that connect the beech lamella elements and by tension lines connected to a perimeter beam of doubly-curved glue-laminated elements.

Project Credits

Students: Meghan Dorrian, Kawit Ko-Udomvit, Omri Menashe, Glen Stellmacher

Tutors: Charley Brentnall, Stewart Dodd, Martin Self

Workshop and site supervision: Charlie Corry Wright, Edward Coe, Jack Hawker

Structural Engineer: Arup (Francis Archer, Glen Rust, Toby Clark)

Membrane supply: Architen Landrell (Lance Rowell, Ceri Richards)

Timber Testing: Bath University (Nick Gathercole)

Foundations: Beacon Foundations