This movie by photographer Jim Stephenson offers a look behind the scenes at this year’s Studio in the Woods, an annual architecture workshop that invites students to design and build wooden structures in a forest.
This year saw six teams of students experiment with timber construction in the Wyre Forest, in the English county of Worcestershire.
The results include an 18-metre-long cantilevered bridge, a giant speaker that amplifies the sounds of the forest and a human-scale nest.
Taylor said the aim of the programme is to bring the act of making into otherwise theory-heavy architecture education, enabling participants to rethink the relationship between designing and making.
“Students never really get to work on the building itself – usually only an approximation of the building as a model or drawing,” he explained. “Working on the actual thing/building itself is completely different.”
The material palette for the summer residency is always informed by its location, which changes each year.
The programme this year centred around oak, which grows in abundance in the Wyre Forest, but which the local community has little understanding of how to use. As a result, it is largely used as firewood.
This year 60 international students and architects were split into six groups, who each interpreted the timber in diverse and interesting ways.
A team led by architects Guan Lee, Hannah Durham and Adam Holloway built a structure around a set of musical instruments, which includes a robotic piano that plays sounds recorded in the woodland through a giant timber speaker.
Shin Egashira and Zoe Berman worked with students to create a structure that takes the form of nest, providing an enclosed space within the forest.
It is made from waste timber found on the woodland floor.
Made from small sections of oak, it takes the form of a Belfast truss.
Taylor and Bowles teamed up with Charley Brentnall of Carpenter Oak to help students create a “room for a tree”.
Barbara Kaucky and Susanne Tutsch worked on a structure that promotes diversity by channelling sunlight to the forest floor, while Kate Darby and Gianni Botsford led students to build a map of shadows.
Taylor said that one of the best things about the programme is that it offers an opportunity to test ideas through making at a one-to-one scale.
“It’s the hands-on/tactile experience the students and architects gain in the woods something they can carry on with back in the real world,” said Taylor to Dezeen. “Many gave claimed it changed the course of their thinking and redirected them.”
Studio in the Woods is now part of the Global Free Unit Network, which offers learning outside the framework of conventional academic institutions.
All structures created this year will remain on site for up to 12 months, to allow the local community to come and observe them.
Photography and film are by Jim Stephenson.
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American architect Robert Venturi has passed away, leaving behind a legacy of postmodern creations. We look back at some of the most important work he completed in the often divisive, but always playful, style.
When asked by his mother to design her a house in the late 1950s, Venturi took the opportunity to create a statement, and the result is now regarded as the first postmodern building.
Many features of the property in Philadelphia draw on those used for functional purposes by modernist architects like Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. But Venturi also included a host of ornamental details to give it its postmodern edge, like the monumental gabled wall at the front, and an arch that serves no purpose.
“Some have said my mother’s house looks like a child’s drawing of a house – representing the fundamental aspects of shelter – gable roof, chimney, door and windows,” wrote Venturi in Architectural Record in 1982. “I like to think this is so.”
In the late 1960s, Venturi was enlisted to design a fire station for the city of Columbus that was an “ordinary building” and “easy to maintain”. His design comprises a simple floor plan, with the apparatus room placed on one side and living quarters on the other. A huge hose-drying tower rising in between is adorned with a golden “4” at the top.
White-glazed brick covers most of the front of the building, but stops just short at the edges, where it is replaced with red brickwork. “This crisp, functional building creates an appropriately ordinary, yet distinctive, image for the rescue and social activities associated with a community fire station,” said Venturi Scott Brown Architects (VSBA) in a project statement.
Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery, London, UK, 1991
Venturi completed the Sainsbury Wing extension to London’s National Gallery with wife Denise Scott Brown and their firm VSBA. The team chose Portland limestone walls to match the exterior of the existing building, designed by William Wilkins in 1838.
Rather than mimicking the original structure, the front of the addition steps backwards to follow the shape of the street, with large square cut-outs on the lower level to make the building more accessible for visitors. An additional glass wall offers views of Wilkins’ building and Trafalgar Square from inside, where galleries are arranged in three different sizes, and spaces are linked by arches.
Seattle Art Museum, Washington, USA, 1991
Terracotta tiles wrap around the bottom of the curved limestone Seattle Art Museum in an undulating pattern, like a signature of Venturi’s postmodern flourish. A marble and terrazzo stairway, which leads up the inside of the museum to negotiate its sloped site, is flooded with natural light from south-facing windows.
Venturi, whose design was chosen to replace the existing museum, described his ambitions for the project to the New York Times in 1991: “If you go to Florence, the art is right out in the street, part of everyone’s experience,” he said. “We couldn’t go that far. But we tried to bring it down to the street and make it open and inviting.”
Children’s Museum of Houston, Texas, USA, 1992
Venturi likely drew on his experience studying child psychology for the 4,100-square-metre building, which is intended to foster early development. The front colonnade exposes a large window behind, while flattened versions run along the side walls and appear to hold up letters spelling out the museum’s name.
Shortly after the National Gallery project in London, VSBA undertook another major museum expansion. This time the firm teamed up with David Singer Architect to complete the renovation and extension of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, which occupied a 1915 villa called Scripps House and had already been extended multiple times.
VSBA’s additions included a courtyard fronted by a colonnade along the lively Prospect Street to create a sheltered area considered as “a well-loved urban space”.
Despite this, the museum plans to demolish parts of the firm’s additions to make way for another expansion, this time by Selldorf Architects. The plans have caused uproar in the architecture community, which launched a petition against the proposal earlier this year.
Venturi also applied his Postmodernm maxim “Less is bore” to furniture, when he and Scott Brown created a range of chairs for Knoll in the early 1980s. The collection offered a decorative take on historic furniture styles like Queen Anne, Chippendale and Art Nouveau.
The duo flattened the traditional forms and left just the silhouette to define them – a process that took them five and a half years to refine – and then covered in colourful patterns. They chose materials that would allow the chairs to be cheap and easy to produce, so that they would be available to everyone.
“A vision that Bob had… was that you should be able to use industrial production methods to make furniture, which is also reminiscent historically,” Scott Brown told Dezeen during an interview in 2017. “And that decoration is part of communication.”
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