2018 | Day One

Written by Finbar Charleston

Inductions and introductions at Hooke Park commenced the first day of the Kingcombe Visiting School, with students flying in from as far as Russia and Singapore to design and fabricate the first project for an external client from the Architectural Association’s woodland campus.

After meeting fellow students and visiting school tutors Clementine Blakemore and Alex Thomas over lunch in the refectory, the newly assembled team took a tour of the woodland campus with the workshop manager Charlie Corry-Wright. Charlie’s intimate knowledge of the many buildings and experiments at Hooke Park allowed for discussion around the technical innovation facilitated by the impressive workshop as well as the creative and inspiring community established in the Dorset woodland.

Set within a rich and diverse ancient woodland, the campus is in healthy dialogue with the local environment. From the biomass system providing hot water to the campus to the permaculture garden used by Charlie’s family and the academic programmes, the campus sets a great example for a sustainable rural community.

The latter part of the afternoon saw Visiting School Tutor Clementine Blakemore introduce the site and the brief before student presentations on previous work and motivations to engage with the AA visiting school, Hooke Park and The Kingcombe Centre. Visiting school guests Ivar Tutturen and Heather McVicar rounded of the presentations with their recent research into the intersections of farming and architecture.

Making the most of the great weather in the Dorset countryside, the team enjoyed homemade pizza before an evening of illuminating talks by Edmund Fowles (director of London based Fielden Fowles) and Alice Blogg (local designer and the third Visiting School tutor) on ‘Meditations on Materiality’. The talks welcomed members of the local community to learn about past and ongoing projects, giving rise to healthy discussions around design process and the evolving dialogue between craft and technology. Inspiring reflections on design across different scales from bespoke furniture to the delivery of complex cultural buildings provided an excellent backdrop for what is sure to be an exciting week of design and production at Hooke Park and The Kingcombe Nature Reserve!

2017 | Day 13

Yesterday marked the final day of the workshop, and a chance to celebrate the work that’s taken place over the past two weeks.

The day began on site early as usual, as we had the seating boards to lay, and the rear prop to install. The weather was still against us, but armed with waterproof trousers and now able to hang a tarpaulin hung from the structure, the team managed to stay a little drier than Friday!

Just after lunch the furniture team, who had been working at Hooke for the past couple of days, delivered their bench to Kingcombe to be assembled on site, and a few others stayed back to finish painting the signage.

Although the seating wasn’t quite finished, at 5.30pm it was time to have a big clear-up in advance of the Topping Out ceremony that evening. The tools were locked up, scrap timber removed, and deck-boards swept down, before we all piled into the mini-bus to clean up and dry off at Hooke Park. After a 15 minute turn-around, we were on our way back to Kingcombe!

The Topping Out was an opportunity to explain the project to the local community, present the participants with their AA certificates, and honour the new structure. Alex fixed a leafy branch to the top-most beam, following an ancient Scandinavian tradition which supposedly appeases the tree spirits which have been disturbed during the construction process. Local story-teller Martin Maudsley joined in proceedings with a spoken blessing, shouted out by the whole crowd. Amazingly, the clouds parted and the sun came out just in time for the event!

After some celebratory prosecco, beers, and lots of group photos, we all head up to the Centre for the summer Barn Dance and Hog Roast. Alex and Clem will be back in a couple of weeks to do the last day’s worth of work on the structure (watch this space for final images!) but for now it’s time to say sad farewells. We’ve all become great friends in this short space of time; despite the hard work and wet conditions – and the fact that we’re desperate for a hot bath and some clean clothes –  it’s still really sad to part ways.

Thank you to all the project partners and supporters who’ve helped us over the past two weeks!


2017 | Day 12

Written by Jennifer Nibbs

Our day began well as we sang and danced on the way to site in the minivan. We organised timber first of all, then cracked on with assembling the frames. By midday, torrential rain poured for hours on end and a long, soggy and cold afternoon commenced. Our clothes soaked through and we were surrounded by muddy puddles, yet everyone remained determined and pushed on to bolt in all 5 frames for the canopy structure.

Today felt very successful, the best part was spending time with a group of fun-loving, motivated people – there is never a dull moment! Through shivers and sniffs, we reached a milestone which we couldn’t vision happening. The task was to bolt together the frames we built last week and assemble them all on site. And we made it!

To top off the day as celebration, we came back to the lodge and had an Indian takeaway, beer and chocolate. We worked extremely hard today and we all felt very proud!


2017 | Day 11

The goal for today was to complete the decked area, so that we have a clean and flat surface to re-assemble and then raise the prefabricated frames tomorrow. As the stretch of of boardwalk had already been completed (save for a few planks at the very end, which have the sponsors and project partners names engraved on) we were focusing on the larger platform area.

We had to lay joists on top of the deck beams, and connect these to the boardwalk beams with 45 degree joist hangers. The planks were then laid on-top of the joists using spacers to maintain the correct 10mm gap between boards, screwed down in place, and then trimmed.

Back at Hooke Park the team who had been working with local furniture-maker Alice Blogg continued making the bench. But in the evening we all reconvened at Kingcombe to have dinner there, which would allow us to save time work a little later than usual. Jan made the final cut at about 9.30pm, as most of the rest of the team packed up – by which time it was getting quite dark!

Later that evening Ram led a yoga session, ensuring that everyone went to bed well stretched, super relaxed, and ready to raise the frames in the morning!

(Thanks to Valerie Bennet for some of the photos from today)


2017 | Day 10

Written by Jessie Morley

Our third day working onsite dawned with a grey sky and the threat of rain. I was relieved that the hot weather had broken, although I’m not sure everybody was quite so enthusiastic.

Today the group split up into three sub-groups to progress the different strands of the project. Some stayed in the workshop with Clem to continue CNC cutting the timber signage; others were kindly joined by a local designer Alice Blogg  to fabricate some extra seating for the site, whilst I headed back to Kingcombe with Alex, Jan and the rest to continue constructing the pavilion.

Our goal on-site was to finish the main raised jetty and platform structure and start to lay the red cedar decking boards. This would be the final step before we could start to reassemble our pre-fabricated timber frames and lift them into position. We were much faster at scribing, notching and cutting the jetty joists than yesterday and were able to make good progress before lunch.

Lunch was eaten inside the café as the drizzle had set in but team morale remained high into the afternoon as the weather cleared and a lot of team singing occurred whilst we worked.  It was Jan’s birthday and he bought a whole Dorset Apple Cake to share which went down very well!

By the evening the whole deck structure was in place and we had cut the deck boards to size ready to install. After a quick trip back to Hooke for dinner, where more birthday cake was eaten, the site team decided to return to Kingcombe to push-on with fixing the decking until it got dark. We then returned to the lodge all attempted to watch Pulp Fiction but after a full-on day of work it was no surprise that no-one saw it through to the end.


2017 | Day 9

Written by Divyansha Arora; Div is about to start her 4th year in architecture at university in Delhi, India.


After having a fulfilling breakfast and grabbing our packed lunch, we headed off to Kingcombe. Our site is ideally located overlooking the Hooke river which gives it a soothing spirit. We started off by preparing the site for the timber pavilion and getting all our tools in place. Tired from our one week of hard work, we had a refreshing yoga session just before we started the day’s work. We stretched ourselves out followed by a discussion to plan our day .

Today’s task was mainly to bolt the beams to the foundation, landscaping and fixing the jetty joists. The weather forecast predicted heavy downpour by the afternoon, so we had to pull up our socks and complete the maximum part of the day’s work by lunch .Divided into groups of three, we got off to check today’s to-do list. We cleared all the space around the site and by the river to have a better sense of the area that we are dealing with, and neatly bolted all the beams to the foundation. A new instructor , Jan joined our team today . He gave us an insight on how to work with timber frames on site with precision.

At lunch time we had healthy sandwiches and cookies. Some of us played skittles in the gentle wind invigorating us.

Getting back to work, we cut out all the notches for the joists and placed all of them over the beams. By working out the layout of the joists we could understand the structural stability of the pavilion ,which is the most essential part of the structure. All in all, it was a fine day with spells of sunshine, breeze, slight drizzle and a whole lot of work!


2017 | Day 8

Written by 陈思佳 (Chensijia – also known as Scarlett!); Scarlett studied architecture at Beijing University of Technology for three years.

It’s a fun and also exhausting day!

Today we prepared for heading to the site in the morning, and then  working more than a half of the day in site, which is beside the river Hooke at the Kingcombe Centre.

In the morning, we prepared sandwiches for lunch at the site, and began to get all the timber frames we prepared already outside the workshop. After that, with Charlie and Steve Master’s help, we loaded them on to a trailer to be taken to the Kingcombe Centre.

We arrived at Kingcombe around 11 o’clock in the morning. Then we started with a small discussion with the tutors to figure out what to do on the site today. As there is only one hour left for lunchwe divided into three groups to start work. My job was painting the protective oil to the wooden beams with two guys.

During the lunch time, we stayed on the grass, and played  bowling to get some relax.

We nearly spent all of our time in the afternoon on moving the heavy timber. It’s quite a hard time for all of us to get all the wood planks from the outside road to the site, as there is no road for the forklift to go inside the site. And it’s a hot day, so everyone sweated a lot.

All in all, it’s a quite happy day with all of us working outside the noisy and dirty factory to the nature. Though exhausted, I felt excited to work at the site. Learned a lot, and enjoyed the fantastic view.


2017 | Day 7

Written by Bhawana Solanky; Bhaws is about to start her fourth year at University School of Architecture and Planning (USAP) in Delhi, India.

The day started with a heavy breakfast and a very bright English sun. We then set off to the Kingcombe Centre for a lecture by Edmund Fowles, Alex Thomas and Peter Laidler on the Waterloo City Farm designed by Fielden Fowles Architects, which is based in central London. The presentation was quite interesting and we got an insight on how timber framing works on a much larger scale than our Kingcombe project. After the lecture, we headed back to Hooke Park for a fulfilling lunch.

Post lunch, we headed off to the seaside town of Bridport for a studio visit. The home and studio of artist Sarah Rapson was a refreshing change from our current dwelling in the forest. She was a modernist and her tastes were clearly depicted through her art and the interiors of the house.  Even though the house was a typical Georgian house built in 1795, the interiors were completely modern and devoid of any colour.

After the very fascinating studio visit, we then decided to visit the seaside. The sky was beautifully sunny, the water was sparkling and the wind was salty. It was a lovely day for a beach trip. We also climbed the West Bay cliffs and had the most gorgeous view from the top – overlooking the meadows and the luminescent sea. After a typical seaside meal of Fish and Chips, we finally headed to Hooke with our bellies and our hearts full!


2017 | Day 6

Written by Ram Aggarwal; Ram is a 4th year architecture student from Rishikesh, India, who is currently studying at Dehradun Institute of Technolgy University (Uttarakhand).

Fresh air filled my lungs and I felt refreshed and exhilarated.

Well, another great morning in the forest, Like every day we headed for the breakfast. Today we had  Eva Kellenberger and Sam Thorne -Graphic Designers-  to help us with signage design. Saturday has been specifically kept for ‘Signage Designing’ and ‘The Pizza Party’.

One team from us went to the Kingcombe  for having a quick site visit about placement of the signage board. We had an introductory session with Eva as well. Experimentation with the style, size & color of the signage, sample test over CNC machine,  preparation of wooden planks was all going hand on hand – loads of work to do.

7:00 PM it was, dinner time, and now the gang was trying their luck on the pizza, Oven was on fire by then as well. The whole landscape was bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun. As the phrase goes “Nothing bring people together like good food”. Everyone was relaxed and enjoying, there was low giggles all around. We had some guests with us as well for the party.

After the pizza session we had a presentation by Eva & Sam about their works – Their work was truly above and beyond.

It was dark by then, trees were glowing in the moonlight. It was so different and pleasing from the mainstream city life. Everyone went to sleep, waiting for an another extraordinary day to come.


2017 | Day 5

Written by Aleksandra Pfeifer; Aleks is a 2nd year BA(Hons) Architecture student at Arts University Bournemouth.

We met at breakfast in the Refectory and soon after cracked on (a popular phrase of Alex – one of the AA Visiting School tutors) with assembling remaining frames. Having finished two timber frames the day before, today we continued expanding our carpentry skills setting up two frames in the sunshine outside the workshop and one inside the building. We repeated the same actions as during the past few days of intensive work, such as planing the wood using both hand and electric planers, drilling holes for bolts holding the structure together, chiselling a lap joint, screwing pieces together and using various types of saws.

Despite the tiredness, the work progressed well under patient and insightful supervision of Alex, fuelled by tea breaks on the deck and hearty meals. As the busy day goes on, it is very satisfying to be trusted with critical tasks of timber construction in a real-life project. Our group of nine seems to have bonded well from the very beginning, combined with passion for the subject and enthusiasm, it is a pleasure to work together as a team.

After dinner, part of the team changed their duty from carpentry to preparing pizza dough for Saturday evening. In the late evening we gathered again in the lounge to watch a documentary Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio about a widely influential figure of Samuel Mockbee who started an architecture studio-school based on the design-build programme aimed to learn through experience of helping the local community. That idea is very similar to what is happening during our AA Visiting School.


2017 | Day 4

Written by Alba Imeri; Alba is a 2nd year architecture student at Central Saint Martins in London.

The first half of the day consisted of filling foundations on the site at Kingcombe Centre. It was useful to understand the process in making a space structurally sound, however the reality of filling foundations and layering the ground with geotextile and gravel was both a challenging and taxing experience! When we arrived back to Hooke Park, we continued exploring the way in which we would place and produce the signage, resulting in using CNC milled text and considerations towards using colour making it both more coherent and bold for the audience. This was a favourite part of my day as it allowed us as students to have greater control on decisions which I felt was really encouraging. Overall, there was greater progress of the site being ready for assembly next week.

One of the most enjoyable moments was producing potential icons for the replacement of the Kingcombe center signs, from the various things we have learnt from the site for example using moths for the meadow as that was the first thing I observed on the site as well as using the flower species, corky-fruited water dropwort to relate with the wildflower meadow.

Within my group we CNC cut Douglas Fir wood with varying depths and fonts to test for the ideal depth and style for the signage. We then painted some lettering in order to determine the effectiveness of the colour on sign. We have considered using a pale blue for the symbols on the posts above.


2017 | Day 3

Written by Lamia AlMuhanna; Originally from Saudi Arabia, Lamia is a recent graduate from Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. She will be pursuing an March degree this fall at the same school.

The clouds have parted and the sun is finally out; a great day to begin with. Just after a nice –not so light- breakfast, everyone headed to the bus for a Kingcombe site visit. Most of us have never been there and so it was exciting to finally get a sense of the site we’re building on.

Just when we arrived, we met a group of elderly people taking a lesson on moths and butterflies -they were pretty enthusiastic about it. As architects, it’s essential to meet the clients and get a sense of the community you’re building for.

So far so good!

After taking a good look and understanding the site we’re building on, we went for a tour with Nick Gray (a Conservation Officer at the Dorset Wildlife trust) to get a bigger picture of the whole Kingcombe area. It a was a great, muddy walk. We learned a lot about the different species of plants around Kingcombe. Finally, it was lunch time! Everyone, including the team from the Kingcombe Centre, headed to Hooke Park for a delicious meal.

It was time to get some work done! We divided the group into two, some went back to site for some foundation work, others stayed the woodshop setting up frames.

Lots of work left to do but it was a great productive day!


2017 | Day 2

Written by Jennifer Nibbs; Jen is a 2nd year architecture student at Central St. Martins in London.

Today was a fun, challenging and successful day. Dividing into groups of three, we cracked on with preparing the wood for the timber pavilion.

For me, the best part of the day was bonding with the other students. As we are now more settled, everyone has become more relaxed and interesting conversations sparked. Meeting people from India, Saudi Arabia, China, Poland and around the UK has been a refreshing experience and I am excited to learn more about their different cultures.

The tasks today were to plane, cut, and organise the timber ready for framing. I thoroughly enjoyed planing the wood – it was a satisfying process! The most challenging part of the day was creating a jig for the drill holes on the timber; using trigonometry to translate the drawings.

Overall – despite confusion, falling over and the wet weather – it was a great day and we are all excited to see the build progress.


2017 | Day 1

Written by Jessie Morley: Jessie studied architecture at Oxford Brooks, and has been working in practice for the past three years. She’s about to start her masters in architecture at Brighton this September.

We arrived at Hooke Park late morning, perfect timing for meeting the tutors and other students over a delicious lunch. This year’s Kingcombe visiting school is truly an international affair with participants from the UK alongside students from as far as India, China and Saudi Arabia.

Re-fuelled we headed to the workshop gridshell to begin the afternoon’s programme. After an introduction by Hooke Park director Martin Self we toured the main campus buildings and immediate forest with Estate and Development Manager Jez Ralph. His knowledge of the forest and how this relates to the buildings that can be produced was fascinating. With his guidance we began to see the estate, not just as a picturesque landscape; but as a working source of material and opportunity driving the constant architectural experimentation and innovation throughout Hooke Park.

With this in mind we returned to the workshop to discuss our own project with tutors Clementine Blakemore and Alex Thomas. Based at the Kingcombe Nature Reserve this will be one of the first Hooke Park designed and built projects to be based outside the estate. With the design outlined and a site visit scheduled for Wednesday it will be straight into the workshop to start initial timber frame fabrication tomorrow.

The day concluded with another great meal followed by each student informally sharing some of their own work with the group. The range and diversity of everyone’s experience was astonishing, but the common thread running through each was the overriding desire to learn through ‘making’. With such an inspiring setting, exciting project and enthusiastic fellow students this fortnight looks to be very promising!