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Downland Gridshell

Downland Gridshell

Gold & Structural Award Winner 2003

Location:East Sussex
Architect: Edward Culling Architects
Structural Engineer: Buro Happold
Wood Species: Oak laths, Red Cedar, British Spruce, English Ash, Scandinavian Spruce, Siberian Larch

“I could have stood there all day Just looking at it,” was one judge’s comment on the Downland Gridshell for the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester.

This new building, which houses the of tools and antefacts and provides workshop space, was designed by Edward Cullinan Architects to inspire visitors and show what can be achieved with timber. fulfils both remits admirably and wowed the judges with its shape and construction.

The oak lathed gridshell is clad in western red cedar. Its double curved structure uses four layers of 50x35mm laths, 36m in length, joined in a grid pattern using a patented node connector. The laths were pieced together as a flat mat on a 7m high scaffold that was struck gradually, bending the mat into its peanut shell shape.

Cullinan’s design uses oak for its strength and flexibility and home-grown western red cedar for cladding: British spruce for the floor plate; English ash for the workshop floor; and Scandinavian spruce and Siberian larch for the glulam posts and beams. All the timbers were chosen for their local availability, suitability and low environmental impact.

The architect used physical modelling and advanced computer analysis for the gridshell design. Judges praised the skilful execution of the erection process and said the structure was an amazing feat of wood engineering