Rural Studio – visit to Green Oak Carpentry

Andrew Freear, Director of Rural Studio, flew in to the UK today from Alabama (after a short detour to Florence). Andrew and I travelled down to Hampshire to visit Green Oak Carpentry, the contractors who will be building the Rural Studio ‘Woodshed’ for the exhibition. We went down and spent the day at one of their barns, so that Andrew (below, on right) could take a look at the timber that Green Oak have sourced for the structure. One of the key aspects of the project is that the Woodshed will be constructed entirely from forest thinnings (trees removed from a forest so that larger, more viable, trees can flourish). Thinnings therefore represent a plentiful, affordable, sustainable – and underutilised – source of construction material. Green Oak have found our particular thinnings from a forest in Wales. The timber consists of all types of woods – larch, pine, ash etc…as Andrew put it quite neatly today, the project is all about using the ‘rubbish’ from a forest. At the Green Oak barn we also met up with Richard Harris, Professor of Timber Engineering at University of Bath.

The second key aspect of the project is a timber joint made from highly-compressed birch plywood which has the same strength as steel, but with none of the disadvantages such as staining, shearing of steel against wood – and of course the obvious environmental issues of using steel. There’s something quite poetic about the simplicity of using a single material like this. The plywood joint (shown above, and below) will be used to connect the various ‘bents’, or frames, that will join up in a linear sequence to create the tunnel-like shed.

The joint is the product of some current, leading PhD research being undertaken in Richard’s Department at Bath. It was fascinating today to gain an insight into how this collaborative process is developing between Andrew / Rural Studio, Green Oak Carpentry and Richard / University of Bath.

We spent a lot of the day discussing everything from charring techniques to drill bits and colour shades of wood – and I learnt a huge amount. It was also rather satisfying to see the actual wood stacked up in piles like that in the Green Oak barn – to finally see the physical materials, and to witness the Woodshed taking its baby steps towards being constructed in the V&A Porter Gallery in a few months…

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