Project Title: Timber Seasoning Shelter, Hooke Park – Beaminster, Dorset
Client: Architectural Association School of Architecture
Architect: Architectural Association School of Architecture
Structural Engineer: Arup
Main contractor/joinery/wood supplier: Architectural Association School of Architecture
Timber testing: Bath University
Site Supervision: Architectural Association
Hooke Park’s Timber Seasoning Shelter is a canopy for the storage and air-drying of timber. Students of the Architectural Association’s Design & Make course completed the project at the AA’s woodland campus in Dorset in 2014. 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 studentdesigned 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 reasonable 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 doublycurved glue-laminated elements.
Other student teams on the Design & Make course are working on different buildings within the campus development, including new accommodation buildings and a boiler house for a biomass district heating system that will be fuelled by Hooke Park’s forestry waste. The Timber Seasoning Shelter is now being used to shelter timber for use in these future projects.