Written by Matteo de Bellis, a student at the Royal College of Art
Another day of hard work at Kingcombe!
The first team (Jan, Arsenily, Finbar, Kenneth) stayed in the workshop at Hooke Park to prefabricate the handrail for the walkway. The second team (Alex, Ryan, Daria and Matteo) spent the day at Kingcombe preparing the joists to be laid down and fixed.
Team number one proceeds at full speed and manages to cut all the pieces to be fitted in the construction, furthermore it designs and fabricates the additional climbing structure that will fill the gaps between the framed structure of the Phase 1.
The second group receives the help of Valerie, former teacher that volunteered to help digging the final holes for the posts that connect the walkway to the entrance through a ramp. Even if the radio doesn’t work, the group is given the rhythm by Russian-Ukranian songs and Shakespeare’s pentameters, acknowledging the fact that A Winters’ Tale would be a perfect play to be enacted on last year platform. The joists are laid in position and fixed with screws and bolts, and a final decision about the assemblage between the handrail and the double external row of joists is made.
At the end of the day the first results start to emerge and a beautifully solid joist structure now appears at the eye, surrounded by the lush richness of insects and flowers of the Kingcombe Centre.
Written by Kenneth Cheng Han, a student at the Melbourne School of Design
It’s the fourth day of the workshop and we’re currently working on the fencing for the boardwalk. Personally, I’m enjoying the hands-on experience of using the workshop tools. I felt I’ve learnt a lot because I’ve never done much making in a workshop and today, we’ve learnt to use the drill and saw machine which we all new to me. We were also taught to build jigs that acts as moulds, guiding the wood that needs to be cut. This is very efficient especially in bulk production.
All in all, I had a really good experience and am thankful for this opportunity to be able to travel here for this course which helps me appreciate natural use of materials (specifically timber), workshop tools, and construction methods.
Written by Daria Bychkova, who runs a playground design firm in Russia
We started the day with the overall check of all the materials we have for the boardwalk fabrication. By then it was kept in the Hooke Park workshop space ready to be transported to the site. Then Clem divided us into two groups – one was to travel to Kingcombe Centre for the site work and the other one was supposed to stay in the Hooke Park workshop to produce pre-fabricated parts for the boardwalk.
Team 1 traveled to Kingcombe and started working on the site. First of all we finished stone covering under the path. After we measured the distances between the beams to know exactly the lengths of each joist. Then the group of two people started marking up the joist lengths and cutting them producing the joists. Some of us including myself learnt to use a circular saw (quite a heavy thing but so effective though!) and have got to feel as real builders!!!!
The Team 2 meanwhile the workshop in Hooke Park and started the production of all the elements for the hand railing using the tools in the workshop – actually very similar ones to what we had on the site but much more precise. So we’ve got a nice combination of a delicate result of the workshop work with the in-studio tools and more let’s say rude but landed on the site result of the work in Kingcombe Centre.
The Team 1 got back to the Hooke Park for the shared lunch and after that the whole group got a chance to watch some forest operation work. We traveled to the forest and saw this huge mysterious machine parked right among the trees (I would never imagine it was possible to get into that place by and machine!) And the guy working with the machine carefully explained us the whole process of cutting down the trees in a very efficient way: this huge mechanism could hold the tree close to its base, cut the trunk with the in-built saw, cut all the benches along the trunk by just moving the “metal hands” along the tree body and then measuring the lengths and the diameter of the trunk with the in-built rolling wheel. After that in just few seconds the volume of the timber can get calculated and sent to the client’s and the operator’s mail of phone getting back with the information if there is still some more wood to be cut to satisfy the required volume for the client. Most interesting thing is that all the actions could be done by just one man sitting and driving the car. No other assistance or participants needed!
After the forest operation demonstration we’ve got back to work and thus spent our first real “labour day”. A happy sunny and productive day!
Written by Ryan Walsh, currently on his Year Out
After the first day all our imaginations were lit full of inspiration and anticipation. It was now time for us to greet the site and understand the setting of the weeks build.
Waking after an amazing sleep in contrast to the constant busy London Sound Hooke park is silent, no noise other that the rustle of the wind and the wildlife that it is home to. Following breakfast, the excited team jumped into the MiniVan and took off down the winding one lane highways towards what had been waiting for us.
Here the hedge rows feel like tunnels and occasionally opening up to a small stone village or view of the surrounding landscape. Just after crossing the Hooke river you arrive at the Kingcombe Nature Reserve our second home for this weeks build. As we arrive to the site we travel through the reserves garden and allotment area. Full of knitting and craft classes the reserve feels like a well loved homily and delicate place.
Arriving on the board walk you realise the ambition of the project and the standard of phase one. Its quite a long way back to the reserve along the set posts. The board walk leans over the river and inscribed into the timber is the names last years project. After an introduction into the site and pointers on the design of two elements which will be inserted into the board walk we head deep into the reserve with Sam the head of the reserve for a guided tour.
As soon as we step into the field we spot a buzzard sweeping from the perimeter trees low into the grasses.
This land is the only agricultural land in the county to avoided the effects of industrial farming and process of pesticides, ploughing of the land and felling / shaping of the land. The reason the buzzard was present is because the perimeter English oaks would normally be chopped down to allow tractors the reach the edges of the field instead this become perches for the buzzard to hang over its prey.
As we step through the narrow fields divided in long stretches traditionally for the sons of the family the overwhelming noise and sound of the grasses are incredibly loud, just as the constant sound of the city rumble in the background here the reserve has a constant hum of insects whilst an abundance of damsel flies fly into your face.
We reach a wide open field and the tops of the grasses are floating with hundreds of butterflies on a day where David Attenborough has made a news broadcast requesting the country to count its butterflies we would be here for years. A minor tweak and turn in temperature causes this and we had arrived precisely at this perfect point. As we stand low next to the Hooke, Sam introduces us to some of the delicate measures the reserve places into the land to help nurture and facilitate habitat such as slowing river flows, the effects of this visible from the root growth in the shallower areas. We walk up the hill and by this point the dryness and aridness of the recent weather is visible and felt, its midday and the sun is at its peak.
We travel down the hill and open a door and step through into the tall hedgerow into and ancient air-conditioned corridor. A cool calm secret retreat that leads us back to the reserve traditional used for trade and the transportation of cattle. The corridor is vaulted and arched with coppiced hazel trees. Old wiser on the outside and younger bendy ones forming the vaults on the inside. Sam explains the process of coppicing and rotation around the reserve throughout serval years providing timber and woodchip for the reserve. After lending an impromptu helping hand to the local gardeners and travelling back along the hedgerow tunnels we travelled to Alice Blogg’s workshop!
Nestled into a Stone Barn surrounded by stacks of raw future chairs Alice’s workshop sat comfortably and overflowing with timber inviting us inside. Alice gave us a tour of the shop and the processes of sourcing, measuring and cutting a tree all the way through to the finishing detail of her exquisite furniture. Understanding the quantities of natural timer and seeing a chair inside a pile of raw drying hardwood was a concept I was completely unfamiliar with and was really interested to see how this process was worked through. Alice shared her most beloved tools and chisels with us and ran through her most intricate of crafts such as the linen a folded wardrobe which smelt as strong as perfume. One particular theme was the resourcefulness of tooling and Jigs, adapted and made to create a certain form along the fold. It was incredible inspiring to see the workshop and gave us a real push to start designing our own pieces.
After lunch we began designing theses elements for the boardwalk in two teams. We immediately took use of the workshops facilities and atmosphere, it feels amazing to design in such a space and after less than two hours we presented our Ideas to the team and ran through the concepts with the client. A lot overlapped and we had plenty of ideas to work on, refine and complete in the given time. We imagined a secret storage step that would use the handrails of the walk to release a step on the lower level of the ground to gives access and discovery to the children that will visit the reserve and for some have there first experience with nature.
After the session we prepared to rest in the quiet peaceful hook park until Monday mornings descent into site and the real work to begin whilst enjoying the times and friends we would make in the week ahead of us.
Written by Finbar Charleston, a masters student at the Bartlett school of Architecture
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 from Verk Arkitektur 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!
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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!