Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Weald and Downland Gridshell

 The Weald and Downland Gridshell (2002) is a building designed by Buro Happold and Edward Cullinan Architects for the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum: it was a runner-up for the Stirling Prize in 2002. The building is a structural wooden gridshell, constructed of oak sourced from Normandy. 
See this article for detailed information regarding how it was built:  Gridshell Construction

Weald and Downland Open Air Museum is an open air museum at Singleton, Sussex, England. The museum covers 50 acres (20 ha), with nearly 50 historic buildings dating from the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries, along with gardens, farm animals, walks and a lake.  The impressive barn dates from the 1771.  It has a timber frame of oak and elm clad with weatherboards and a roof thatched with reed.

The buildings at the museum were all threatened with destruction. They were carefully dismantled, conserved and rebuilt to their original form at the museum. These buildings help the museum bring to life the homes, farmsteads and rural industries of the last seven hundred years. Many buildings situated there are over four hundred years old, and still stand strong.

I spent more than 3 hours walking around and speaking with the guides in each building.  Fascinating place.  I learned a lot about the construction methods, the materials, and the tools of the early tradesmen.  This building was a shop dating from the 15th century in a town called Horsham.
The watermill dates from the early seventeenth century, and was working until 1935.  It is in working order and flour from the mill is sold in the museum shop.  I spoke with the blacksmith about blacksmithing at length.  Smithing is an amazing craft.  There is a lot to know about the task of using fire to forge, cast and weld metal into useful and beautiful objects.  In 19th century Newick, Sussex, a plumber and a glazier both shared a small workshop that probably had more gadgets, gizmos and goos than you can imagine. 
The museum actually has lectures and courses on these traditional methods.  I was thoroughly impressed with the place, though I didn't have time to see it all.  I am inspired to learn more about the implementation of new techniques through the ages and how these innovations were absorbed by local tradesmen.

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