The Institute for Timber Technology (ITT) draws from the context of John Nash’s masterplan of Regency London in the early 1800’s. The project’s starting point is an analysis of the spatial qualities of Nash’s work, looking at a masterful employment of architecture that bridges sweeping urban gestures with pared back elegant rows of stucco facades, and their accompanying informal brick mews.
Where Nash hides the informal, and with it the workings of 17th century everyday London life in the sprawling backside of his formal stucco facades, the ITT aims to offer a re-orientation of formal and informal, suggesting that in contemporary post-industrial decline in London, there may be an incentive to revive a practice of the teeming life of production. Where Nash’s formal was constructed to hide the everyday and its workings, the ITT proposes the formal in an interior, to retreat amongst the ad-hoc workshops and testing grounds of a timber technology institute.
In a playful opposition to Nash’s employment of timber as a hidden ingredient to his architecture; in interiors, floor joists, and roof rafters – the ITT proposes a new-found relevance for the material in light of growing interest in its potentials to address sustainability in the construction industry.
Like Nash’s interpretation of Classical architecture’s use of proportion, hierarchy and rhythm, the ITT engrains a temporal layer as part of its institutional imperative to represent not only current discourse and methods relating to timber, but past and possible future ones too. The plan shows this temporal layer in a hierarchy of timber columns; glue-lam columns span the institute and support its roof, looking out to the future, standard dimension solid-pine columns frame the interior threshold and rooms of the institute, standing for the everyday present, and green-oak columns rest on Classical-like pedestals, supporting the inner atrium and heart of the institution, reflecting a common knowledge of the past in its library and research spaces.
Research and innovation encouraged in the workshops are complemented by the intellectual life of the libraries, lecture theatre, and conference spaces. Their proximity in the design brings opportunities for a dialogue between the worlds of making and thinking.