Assembly Workshop

Assembly Workshop

A new workshop/shelter for project work at the Architectural Association’s Hooke Park campus has been built and designed by the students themselves. The workshop is the latest in the collection of innovative timber buildings at Hooke Park.

Assembly Workshop Hooke Park
Assembly Workshop Hooke Park
Assembly Workshop Hooke Park

A new workshop/shelter for project work at the Architectural Association’s Hooke Park campus has been built and designed by the students themselves.

It provides a 500m2 sheltered workspace for construction activities and is used for full-scale prototyping, testing, pre-assembly and other research into architectural systems. Over the coming decade, its core output will be a series of student-designed-and-built campus buildings. The workshop is the latest in the collection of innovative timber buildings at Hooke Park.

The furniture maker John Makepeace originally established the site as a School for Woodland Industries. Under his ownership three pioneering timber buildings were built on the site in the 1980s, all utilising roundwood thinnings – the trunks of spruce trees which, though tall and slender, were considered to be too thin to be of use to the timber industry.

Buro Happold were design engineers for all the initial buildings, with the first two designed by architect ABK with Frei Otto, and the third by Edward Cullinan Architects.

The first building, a refectory, was constructed using roundwood as stiff frames supporting an innovative roof structure using timber poles in tension. The second building, a workshop, was a domelike structure; the thinnings were secured at their bases to a circular concrete beam at the perimeter, bent over ‘in the green’ and fixed together to form the dome structure. The third building also used roundwood thinnings as structure and contains sleeping spaces for 16.

In 2001, the Architectural Association (AA) took over the ownership of Hooke Park and began to use the site and its buildings for visits by students and tutors. Since 2010 it has become part of the ‘Design and Make’, a master’s programme which runs for 16 months and is intended for post Part 2 students. The agenda of the programme is ‘design through making’, where students learn through direct engagement in the construction of a full-scale building.

The new workshop was needed because the original workshop, designed for furniture-making, was not suitable to create large timber assemblies. And like the earlier buildings, the aim was to demonstrate that low-value ‘waste’ thinnings from local woodland have structural and environmental advantages and require minimal industrial processing and material transport.

The workshop is simply a large enclosure with permanent openings, no services and no insulation. Its complex faceted envelope, supported on a series of roundwood trusses, was determined by specific site relationships: an entrance view of the campus to the north, a cantilevered canopy facing a beech forest towards the west and, towards the east, access to a large central work-yard where saw milling and fabrication activities are currently carried out.

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