Threshold – RIBA event (Love Architecture Festival) – Pecha Kucha – Coppiced Pavilion

RIBA Sussex branch have put on an event named ‘Threshold’ which is part of the Love Architecture festival

Threshold is a pop up architecture and built environment centre demonstrating how architects and associated creative professionals can adapt, reuse, transform and re-invent the spaces around us, presenting an exhibition and programme of public events on the theme of inhabiting un[der]-used space(s).” quote from

I was invited by Jim Stephenson from click click jim photography and Olli Blair Chair of RIBA Sussex branch and director of ABIR architects  to speak at a Pecha Kucha at MyHotel in Brighton. The Pecha Kucha event can be found on the Pecha Kucha website 


About an hour before the event was due to start we had finished setting up the Threshold exhibition space, had a few quick pints at The Wagon and Horses to ease the nerves, then went back to try and prepare what I was going to say! Heres what I came up with!

Me presenting

Courtesy of Jim Stephenson (click click jim)


Last Years Degree Show 

Traditionally every year Brighton University Architecture and interior Architecture department construct a pavilion in Brighton to house there final years work.  There was a variety of different materials used to create different partitions to show alternative methods of wall fabrication These ranged from rammed chalk walls to star bails.


We then went away and discussed how we may be able to use timber structurally.  Tezuka Architects have done this.  The Japanese play zone for young kids uses stacked timber.  The university of Sheffield have used a similar method in construction a self composting toilet.

Research, AA ‘Big Shed’

The Architectural Association have a project named ‘Big Shed’ in Dorset, where they are using timber in a very interesting structural manner. The timber is sourced locally.

Research, AA

Temporary Pavilion created, again by the AA where they use coppiced Ash, to create a small shelter.  They begin in testing the timber and its structural characteristics.

Research, Flimwell, East Sussex 

This structure more close to home was constructed for a range of different activities to take place in.  It was strongly supported by Woodnet UK

Down to the woods!

Framfield wood, near to Uckfield in East Sussex.  Was the location of the woodland about 30 minutes outside of Brighton. We met David Saunders who donated the timber, knowledge and resources.  This is the route down to the main area where we felled the majority of the trees to be tested on.

Cutting / Selecting

Choosing which trees we went for trees roughly 10 m tall and a variety of different species. This would give us a good idea of which types of trees performed best in each environment.

Gathering / Carrying

We used both man power and a machine named ‘The Iron Horse’ (check out this crazy link!) was really useful in bringing large amounts of the wood up to the camp site where we worked on the timber!


Wood shaving the bark of the edges is a traditional method, used over many centuries.  The off cuts were used in a variety of different ways, in tanning and other uses. We did this to all the timber so we could keep a constant across our different experiments.

Quick Testing

We began by testing the structures across anything we could find in the immediate area.  This was great as we could then get a quick idea of what the timber can, and can’t do.


Timber was experimented only in its green form, which is unusual when dealing with coppiced timber.  We began by combining quite a few of the birch poles together and leaving them overnight to see if they would keep the history of the form.  They didn’t! We also knotted them however this was good at first but the strength of the wood then was compromised by some of them breaking. We also tried steaming them, this was difficult as they weren’t able to contain the height affectively and they were just left over the fire.

Testing results?

After quickly testing these different timbers, we came to a conclusion that Birch was the best at what we wanted to do.  A load at one end was needed to level out the forces to create the desired arch we wanted.  Birch trees also in this woodland were classed as a weed or ‘vermin’ so we used as many of them as we could as they were taking up the much needed light for the younger seedlings.

Stop Motion of testing different timber 

Constructing a temporary wall we began by using different timbers and testing them specifically with a  wall in the correct location.  This was interesting and reinforced our original ideas of the Birch timber. We decided to use Birch after this point!

Drawing up!

The tutors Glenn, Kate and Tony then went away after we had constructed this research and made it feasible for a degree show pavilion.  The original shape has been continued through the initial design sketches.

Roof Construction Issues

Initially the roof construction did not have enough of a camber / fall on it.  So water began pooling in certain areas, as we were using a mesh roof structure beneath.

Construction Resolution! 

By extending the height of one side of the walls, we managed to encourage the water to run off better.  


From the ground up, the trough detail with the spruce logs were needed to secure one edge of the roof to.  Fixing the roof to different elements of the structure was difficult but for a temporary structure it seemed to work out alright and the majority of the pavilion was water proof enough to house our work!

Final Image 1 

The construction and research was forward thinking and it fulfilled the original purpose of the structure very well.

Final image 2  

This image shows how elements every year from the degree show are being left, the rammed earth chalk wall was left, and so as a relic we are planning to leave a part of this pavilion for next year to inherit!  Who knows!

What Next? 

The research we compiled and undertook was new and unknown this was the exciting part of it.  However I think there are a variety of different schools and architectural practices that are forward thinking in the use of local sourced timber.  Mitchell Taylor in Bath is a forward thinking architect who has a meticulous use of wood in his work. Finland also has a very active unit alongside the architecture school with a dedicated ‘wood programme’ to students who are very interested in this area. and of course the AA ‘s projects in South Devon. 


A big thanks to everyone above.

3 thoughts on “Threshold – RIBA event (Love Architecture Festival) – Pecha Kucha – Coppiced Pavilion

  1. Pingback: Brighton University – Final year Architecture Pavilion « Oliver Hester – Architecture

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