Je Ahn of London-based Studio Weave discusses how a series of design and build workshops are reintroducing architects to working on site in this movie by Stephenson/Bishop and Andy Matthews.
Studio Weave co-founder Ahn led this year's Studio in the Woods summer workshop programme for students, architects and designers, first initiated by architect Piers Taylor of Invisible Studio to encourage a more hands-on approach to design.
"It started when a collective of architects came together as friends with the desire to make things with their own hands in the landscape," says Ahn.
Participants use teamwork and communication to design and build as they go rather than drawing and planning off site.
"As architects we are getting pushed further away from what's happening on site and the real world," Ahn says. "You imagine things through your drawings and students are exactly the same, doing hypothetical projects that look beautiful... but how they're actually built and realised is another matter."
Sixty students, practising architects, furniture designers and sculptors spent five days creating timber structures amongst the woodland while camping on site last month.
Designers led five teams to build small shelters hidden in the trees, weave planks between tree trunks and create seating that skirts the edge of the woods.
The workshops take place in a different rural location each year. This year's site was in Stanton Park, near Swindon in Wiltshire.
Swindon Borough Council acted like a client for the permanent structures, the first occasion this has happened in the programme's seven-year history.
"This is the first time that we have a lifespan of these structures, which changed the dynamic of the design quite considerably," says Ahn.
The designs were responses to a narrative about an imaginary community of industrious folk living around the site, created as part of a wider project that Studio Weave has been working on with the council.
"The Studio in the Woods workshop changed the way we practice and how we see things," Ahn concludes.
Studio Weave's previous rural projects include a hand-painted bird-watching cabin in Kent and a series of giant horns for listening to countryside sounds in Derbyshire.
Studio Weave sent us the information below:
Now in its seventh year, the people behind Studio in the Woods have taken the summer building workshop to public land for the first time. Located within ancient woodland just outside Swindon, the design and construction of five large timber structures was led by a group of award-winning architects, engineers, and furniture makers, with 60 participants who camp on-site for five days.
Studio in the Woods is an ongoing educational programme promoting the exchange of architectural knowledge and skills through experimentation and direct building experience. It was initiated by Piers Taylor in 2006 and continues to offer the opportunity to "learn by doing" in a reaction against the seeming disparity between designing a building and how it is realised; increasingly architects must imagine the making process through drawing. Studio in the Woods offers the chance to learn from the makers and work collectively.
Evening talks by invited speakers are organised for each evening once tools are put down for the day and before a group dinner. Participants include architecture students, practicing architects and a wider audience with an interest in sculpture, landscape and building with materials to hand.
This year’s workshop forms part of a wider project at Stanton Park and the adjacent Stratton Woods, to the north-east of Swindon. Over the last eight months, architecture practice Studio Weave has been working with Swindon Borough Council and the Woodland Trust on reinterpreting the two neighbouring woodlands and how the public perceives, uses and navigates them.
Set with the challenge to tie the sites together through one engaging narrative, Studio Weave have written a story surrounding a community of industrious woodland folk called the Indlekith, who live at a much slower pace to humans – a pace more akin to that of nature. The Indlekith are difficult to spot but clues of their existence lie in the smells, sounds, and textures of the woods. All five structures illustrate this narrative in a different way by responding to various characteristics of the woodland and how our senses interact with these.
Studio in the Woods 2013 was made possible by the generous support of Swindon Borough Council – the landowner of Stanton Park – making it the first time the workshop has had a client. This meant that health and safety has played an important role in designing for construction and lifetime use with the structures required to have a life span of five years, which has changed the dynamic of the designs from previous years.
Je Ahn, director at Studio Weave, says "Studio in the Woods provides an interesting solution to this problem of how to experience the parks. This is a design and build workshop where participants turn up without a design or knowing the site. They spend only a few days designing and building at the same time, responding very closely to the immediate context. There is minimal drawing but lots of communication and a strong emphasis on building the team."