1989 - Craft school


Set in 300 acres of ancient deer forest, Hooke Park College in Dorset is involved with researching and teaching ways in which the world's forest resources might be more effectively managed and utilised. Perhaps the most striking structure on site is the workshop building, whose pvc shell is built, following principles developed and taught at the college, on a framework of timber from the surrounding woodland. This is not the well-seasoned mature timber traditionally employed in building construction but the 'thinnings' that are normally used only for fence posts or to make into chipboard. The design challenge was to engineer new ways of using such timber for third-world countries - a low-tech, low-budget approach with many potential benefits. After being trimmed and debarked, the poles were treated with environmentally-friendly fungicide and then bent to shape by muscle power alone, while still wet and green. If the exterior resembles a partly inflated airship, then inside it is like being in the belly of some huge beast. The sweep of the timber framework is exhilarating, the arches and bracing pieces creating fascinating patterns and perspectives. However unusual the appearance of this workshop, it is by definition a purely functional building and the generous roof span makes plenty of open space available for teaching areas, workbenches and machinery. What other uses might this kind of structure be put to?

There exist many schools and colleges dedicated to specialised areas of study and one of the most unusual is Hooke Park College in Dorset, which is concerned with teaching people how to make more effective use of the world's timber resources. Just like wheat or sugar beet, timber is a commercial crop grown in managed forests. It provides wood for a variety of uses, such as paper-making or in building construction. As with most renewable crops, it needs periodic thinning to ensure that the best plants grow to healthy maturity. Perhaps only 10 per cent of the original seedlings remain as trees and the relatively weak thinnings have little commercial value. The Hooke Park team, practising what they preach, have developed ways of using thinnings as an element in building design - bending them into arches, using the long, thin timbers in tension as catenary forms, and in simple post and platform construction work. Using this technology, architects Ahrends Burton & Koralek worked with Buro Happold and Frei Otto to create at Hooke Park College a workshop building of three arched bays, with the outer ends fully glazed to provide the maximum light for the work. Extensive use was made of computer analysis to determine the interaction of shapes and forces. The restricted size of the timber available (typically from 50 to 150mm in diameter and approximately 6.5m long) precluded the design of a 'log-cabin' type building and a timber-framed structure was the logical choice. The side poles are anchored in place by being bolted to the concrete base of the building and the whole framework is covered by a double-skin membrane of reinforced pvc, which acts to insulate and brace the structure. A roof-light runs the full length of the building. At the centre of each of the shell-like sections, the arches are vertical but those on either side splay out, gradually lowering and widening to produce the wavelike curve seen in profile. It is a graceful solution to an unusual design challenge.

1960 - Comprehensive School

1993 - Primary school