Inspired by Hooke Park’s Prototype House by Frei Otto and Richard Burton, through 2016 our Design + Make students investigated the limits of timber in tension – fabricating a lightweight timber net which spans 11 meters while being made up of timber laths of just 38x38mm in section. To avoid imperfections, the laths were assembled from short sections using a glued finger-jointed scarfed splice. The structure adjusted, each lath carries up to two tonnes of tension, demonstrating the remarkable strength of wood under tension. Parallel research by NK Kuo explored the use of large-scale steam bending of whole trees. By slicing the end of tree trunks into laminas, steaming those laminas, and bending them around an adjustable bending jig a curve of 50 to 110cm radius could be formed in the 25cm diameter logs. A set of 18 of these elements were used to support one end of the canopy.
As the net tensioned in its final form differed significantly from the structure as model, as studio tutor for the programme I worked closely with students from our cohort to develop a method for manually surveying to position of nodes in the structure after 3D scanning tests were found to be impractical. From these accurate as-built measurements a CNC patterned aluminium roof was designed, fabricated in the workshop, and riveted together on site. Photos from: Valerie Bennett, NK Kuo, Kevin Kim and Evgenia Spyridonos.