The Weald and Downland Gridshell is a sustainable building originally designed to provide a space for hosting workshops and to sell artifacts. Located within The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Sussex, England, its innovative undulating shape is made from local green oak laths bolted together as a framework. Designed by Edward Cullinan Architects, with structural engineers Buro Happold and the Green Oak Carpentry Company, the Downland Gridshell building is a fantastic self-supporting wooden structure, and is one of only four of its kind in the whole world.
The Downland Gridshell is part of The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, which covers a total of 50 acres exhibiting nearly 50 historic buildings from different periods and styles, along with gardens, farm animals, walking paths, and a lake. Completed in 2002, its design resembles a peanut with three nuts. It is mainly used as a timber framing workshop, but it has also for events including music concerts, conferences and workshops. It was constructed from green oak laths sourced from nearby Normandy, bolted together to form a square lattice about 165 by 115 feet.
The lattice was assembled and then bent by gravity, making the building process very energy-efficient, while creating the fantastic undulating shape we see today. According to a DTI research study by Buro Happold, the green oak gridshell‘s embodied eco-rating is only about 3 percent of an equivalent steel or concrete structure, benefiting the building with very high sustainable standards.
The Gridshell has won numerous awards including a British Construction Industry Award, a Civic Trust Award and a Gold Wood Award, and it was once used as a temporary entrance canopy on the Centre Pompidou.
Photo © Edward Cullinan Architects / Keegan Duigenan / Richard Learoyd