What is an advanced timber structure? Xylotek, United Kingdom-based design and delivery company for advanced timber structures, creates wooden structures for a number of purposes, defined by unusual and complex uses for wood in architecture. Working with architects Invisible Studio, the brand has created a sinuous timber shelter in the UK woods that looks like something out of a fairytale.

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Aerial view of the structure surrounded by trees

The goal of Xylotek is a low-carbon future that changes the world using wood architecture. You can see with the timber shelter that wood is not taken for granted as a building material structurally or aesthetically. Upon approach, the shape of the timber shelter is almost mysterious. How did they achieve those shapes and why?

Related: Timber institution in Lithuania is the first of its kind

Aerial view of the timber structure

On closer examination, you can see the function here: shelter, seating areas built into each end and a vaulted ceiling for cross breeze. Yet, this building is extremely beautiful inside and out on top of being functional. Look at the cross-hatching in the way the timbers inside are laid out for the trusses. Additionally, every inch of this structure seems under tension and yet completely at ease and balanced.

Bent wood making the roof of the structure

Xylotek is an international team founded in 2018 by directors Charley Brentnall, Oscar Emanuel and Martin Self to bring their shared passion for wood architecture. They also combined their diverse experience to serve projects seeking high ambition for the application of timber in architecture.

Close view of the curved wood and steep arch

Meanwhile, their specialty involves non-standard timber structures that need innovative solutions. The correct shape, technologies, and supply chain need to be ordered for each job working with everything from industry partners to in-house prototyping and fabrication in the company’s workshops.

Close view of an arch of the structure

So, what does this look like in practice? The stairs at Netflix headquarters. An unusually shaped gazebo in the park. Auditoriums made from wood risers. Garden bamboo structures in China. Cabanas, greenhouse roofs, grid shells and theaters are just some of the projects from Xylotek that make unique use of wood as a building and design material.

Another wood arch of the structure

Moreover, the timber shelter in Gloucestershire worked with hundreds of people from harder-to-reach community groups and Forestry England volunteers and staff to create this unique community building. The work is also technically complex and was built with community participation.

Inside the shelter with views of the nearby trees

The final structure is also a shelter to be enjoyed by outdoor workers and visitors to the site. It was made from trees extracted from the location’s woodland management in addition to old signage from the site. This then lowers the project’s carbon footprint. Local green timber carpentry techniques were used to achieve the unusual shape that requires steam bending, laminating, and shingle making to create the lovely and odd shape of the building.

Invisible Studio says the distinctive and innovative hyperbolic paraboloid shape of the shelter will offer protection from the elements while offering views of surrounding woodlands. The aesthetic reflects a desire to provide the groups who will use the shelter with a space that is non-prescriptive for any use.

+ Invisible Studio, Xylotek

Images via Invisible Studio with Xylotek and Jim Stephenson