Robotic Build: Students Make New Timber Pavilion from Waste

London-based Architectural Association students use foraged wood to build "open-air laboratory"

Mon 08 Apr 24


Architectural students are now using robotic technology to turn unprocessed lumber and wood waste into the next generation of demountable timber structures.

As reported by Dezeen overnight, a London-based design school has been working with engineering giant Arup to use robotics to successfully model, prefabricate, flat-pack and install a 4,046-square-metre fully demountable timber pavilion within ten days.

The new facility, which will now be used as an open-air laboratory for long-term ecological studies, has been designed to be easily dismantled and relocated per the forest’s periodic felling cycles.

It is located at the school’s satellite campus Hooke Park. (Photo Credit: Dezeen via Architectural Association)

Known as “Field Station,” the pavilion was constructed by students at London’s Architectural Association (or the AA), the UK’s oldest private architectural school – on the grounds of Hooke Park forest.

The AA promotes and affords facilities for the study of architecture for the public benefit and is committed to producing and disseminating ideas that challenge and advance the design of contemporary culture, cities, and the environment, both now and in the future.

Now, Dezeen reports that the pavilion’s large wooden frame is composed of ash battens connected with steel plates and tension rods. Its diagonal bracing and column-like supports are formed from lengths of foraged roundwood and forked trunks, making each piece unique.

According to an AA representative, “Students harvested this material by searching the forest floor of recently thinned compartments for branches of suitable shape, thickness, and integrity, echoing historical practices like estover—the tradition of collecting firewood.” 

Using “round timber, in place of processed lumber,” the students created a new structure requiring 30% less timber per tree to be felled, thus reducing its material footprint.”

The Field Station is part of the Architectural Association’s Design + Make Programme, which has already seen the school construct the Sawmill Shelter in 2017.

Timber battens and foraged waste wood make up the structure. (Photo Credit: Dezeen via Architectural Association)

Working with Arup, the students used computer-aided design to incorporate irregular wooden components into the structure. The elements were scanned and placed into a computer model before being cut into place using a robotic arm.

According to an AA spokesperson, “This technological innovation accommodates material eccentricities and showcases how advanced manufacturing techniques can be harmonised with natural, irregular materials to create scalable architectural solutions.” 

Before adding that, the “aspirational model demonstrates modern architecture’s potential to contribute positively to woodland management and carbon sequestration.”

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Intelligent City is a Vancouver company that produces mass timber housing. The facility uses robotics and digital technology to bring together panel design and production, two processes that are usually carried out separately and sequentially. (Photo Credit: Journal of Commerce via Intelligent City)

The push to embrace robotics comes as Wood Central last week reported that Canadian-based design studio ‘Intelligent City’ has invested extensively in design for manufacturing and assembly (or DFMA) to design and construct the next generation of construction.

The practice uses “intelligent” robots to produce custom-cut panels of mass timber walls, floors, and ceilings. The panels are then bound together in factories before being assembled onsite as part of multi-storey mass timber housing projects.


  • Wood Central

    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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