Wallon Forestry Centre

Situated in the middle of the Ardennes Forest in Belgium, the building is used to treat silviculture seeds. Because wood manufacturing is an important aspect of the region’s economy, the building’s owner wanted to symbolise this by using wood in a highly technical manner. The building comprises a workshop, a series of cold storage areas, offices and laboratories. The dome-like structure utilises small double-layered 6 m long pieces of wood to form one continuous structural element (called a gridshell). Joined together with steel bolts, the wooden elements are covered in laminated glass tiles to provide a transparent cladding that covers the entire building. The visual presence of the structure against the surrounding landscape remains one of building’s greatest achievements.

 

The initial idea was to use fresh wood because of its capacity to relieve pre-bending stresses from constant curvature. The basic element of the structure is a double layered-arc composed of various rectangular pieces of wood, all between 6,14 and 6,21 meters long. The arc thus formed of circular segments approximates a funicular curve. Their axes are all implanted in radian plans forming a torus section. This is an economic design, since it requires a limited number of different wood sections. The idea of using pre-bent perches to create a building is a concept as old as time, used by Mongolian Yurt to the Zulu Cabin. A revival of interest in this type of construction has taken place recently due to the work of C. Mutschler with F. Otto in Mannheim (1975) and of Kikutake at Nara (1987), as well as to the experimental buildings in Dorset (U.K) by architects Ahrends Burton and Koralec and engineer Edmund Happopld (1982).

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