Architectural Association students of the Design & Make program are pushing the envelope on lightweight timber construction. In the program’s most recent annual project, students completed the Sawmill Shelter, an experimental pavilion that uses tension to hold the structure together and create a sturdy roof resistant to snow loads and wind uplifts. Located in Hooke Park of Dorset, England, the sculptural structure features a roof built from locally sourced Western Red Cedar.
The Sawmill Shelter was designed and built by students En-Kai Kuo, Evgenia Spyridonos, Eleni McKirahan, Rolando Madrigal, Trianzani Sulshi, Paolo Salvetti, and Diego Saenz Penagos. In addition to serving as the 2016-2017 Design + Make project, the experimental pavilion is also a prototype for structural systems planned for the new campus lecture hall and library. The structure was built atop an existing 50-square-meter concrete slab on which the campus sawmill is placed.
The students built the Sawmill Shelter using 38-by-38-millimeter laths of Western Red Cedar sourced from Hooke Park and assembled from shorter sections held together with glued finger-jointed scarfed splices. “The structure adjusted, each lath carries up to two tonnes of tension, demonstrating the remarkable strength of wood under tension,” reads the project description. The laths were tensioned to create a “stiff net of wood” clad in CNC-milled aluminum panels for a striking and lightweight anticlastic timber net roof spanning nearly 11 meters.
Student En-Kai Kuo also helped lead the large-scale steam bending of whole tree to create unusual structural columns. Eighteen bent trees, made of Douglas fir and larch, support one end of the Sawmill Shelter.
Images by Valerie Bennet, Evgenia Spyridonos and Kevin Kim