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· Hannah Durham

Studio in the Woods 2018

A dragon's nest, an apparatus to create a shaft of light, lost shadows, a room for a tree, woodland music and Titanic moments

This year Studio in the Woods was located in the Wyre Forest, the largest contiguous ancient woodland in England and hosted by the Guild of Saint George and the Wyre Community Land Trust.

The woodland is ninety-nine percent oak and sits on land originally gifted to John Ruskin (1819-1900) when he established the Guild of St George in the 1870s. The founding aim of the Guild was to acquire land and – through labour, wind and water power – to bring it into useful production. 

We had six groups each with a different agenda of what they would make during the two days of construction in the woods.  The six outcomes were each distinct and beautiful.

A Dragon's Nest

The group led by Shin Egashira (AA School) and Zöe Berman (Studio Berman) created a large dragon’s nest. It was crafted by collecting discarded branches from the forest floor, sorting them by size and then placing each piece into the nest wall. This process was similar to the care taken when building a dry stone wall, with each piece carefully sorted to have a close fit with the next. Each branch was fastened to the next (for safety) by wooden pegs.

A Dragon's Nest created by the group led by Shin Egashira and Zöe Berman. Photo credit: Jim Stephenson.

An Apparatus to Create a Shaft of Light

Another guided by Barbara Kaucky and Susanne Tutsch of Erect Architecture choose a site amongst a crop of young sprouting oak. They used biodegradable string to fasten horizontally 1x2 inch lengths of oak from tree to tree to encourage the trees to lean outwards creating an opening in the tree canopy. This allowed a shaft of light to hit the forest floor bringing with it energy for biodiversity.

An apparatus to create a shaft of light by the group led by Barbara Kaucky and Susanne Tutsch. Photo credit: Jim Stephenson.

Lost Shadows

One structure traced the movement of light and shadow across a site which sat beside three buildings. This group led by Kate Darby (Kate Darby Architects) and Gianni Botsford (Gianni Botsford  Architects) continued their theme of ‘constructed analysis’ to make visible the sense of time. As a work in progress the site was covered with a web of strings each representing a 30 minute interval throughout one day, this being the dividing line between light and shadow. With the strings removed this revealed a structure where you could climb in and inhabit lost shadows.

Lost Shadows created by the group led by Kate Darby and Gianni Botsford. Photo credit: Jim Stephenson.

A Room for a Tree

Meredith Bowles (Mole Architects), Charley Brentall (Carpenter Oak), Piers Taylor (Invisible Studio), Dr Caroline Vasilikou (University of Reading) and Jack Hawker (Momentum) with their group constructed a ‘room for a tree’ which could be climbed. It was made from curved timber with no commercial value, stacked with slits cut into each plank to join each piece. A circular door allows entry and small holes allow for dappled light within.

A Room for a Tree created by the group led by Meredith Bowles, Charley Brentall, Piers Taylor Dr Caroline Vasilikou and Jack Hawker. Photo credit: Jim Stephenson.

Titanic Moments

Another group created a mighty eighteen metre long cantilevered Belfast truss out of small sections of oak.  This established a ship’s plank effect of walking along the truss with a Titanic moment at the end as you lean over the woodland. This group was led by Lee  Ivett (Baxendale Studio), Je Ahn (Studio Weave), Lynton Pepper and Tim Lucas (Price and Myers).

Belfast truss created by the group led by Lee Ivett, Je Ahn, Lynton Pepper and Tim Lucas. Photo credit: Jim Stephenson.

Woodland Music

My group also led by Guan Lee (Grymsdyke Farm) and Adam Holloway created a piece where the woodland soundscape was played back to itself via a digital translation process. This included a robotic arm playing a tune translated from a site field recording on an oak piano, through an oak megaphone towards an oak sound mirror.

Woodland Music created by the group led by Hannah Durham, Guan Lee and Adam Holloway. Photo credit: Jim Stephenson.

Each evening we were treated to a line-up of evening speakers including Niall McLaughlin on his work (architect), Dr Rachel Dickinson on Ruskin (Principal Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University), Charley Brentnall on Oak and traditional timber framing (timber framer) and Piers Taylor on the role of making in design (architect).

Guest critics included Ted Cullinan, Peter Clegg, Niall McLaughlin and Robert Mull.

We had the delight after working in the woods to delicious lunches and evening meals thanks to Lavinia Hastie, Imogen Taylor, Lily Taylor Philips and John Sowerby.

Thank you to Tim Selman and Ben Cosnett from the Wyre Community Land Trust as well as Jenny Robbins and John Iles from the Guild of Saint George. Equally thank you to Kate Darby and Piers Taylor and all those who helped organise and who took part in Studio in the Woods.

Here is a short film about Studio in the Woods 2018 by Jim Stephenson:

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