Win sees MSD teaching AA School students

Melbourne School of Design Lecturer and studio leader Paul Loh, together with studio leader David Leggett and alumna Amanda Ngieng, have won the The Hooke Park Wakeford Hall Ideas Competition with their entry titled Technological and Ecological Permeability.

The design competition is run by the UK’s Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA School). Entrants were asked to produce a design and learning strategy that would inform the design, development and construction of Wakeford Hall, the new central academic facility at Hooke Park.

Hooke Park is the Architectural Association’s woodland site in Dorset, south west England. The 150-hectare working forest is owned and operated by the AA and contains a growing educational facility for design, workshop, construction and landscape-focused activities. Wakeford Hall will be a fully enclosed structure, comprising a lecture theatre, offices, and a library. It will also function as the local Community Hall.

The competition is unusual in the world of architectural competitions, as Masters students at the AA will take over the winning projects and realise the design into a physical building themselves.

“This makes it very interesting,” says Loh, “because we are asked to design a pedagogy in addition to designing a building.” Winning entry Technological and Ecological Permeability focuses on the teaching methodology behind the building. “The design isn’t so much about the physical end product, as it is about the pedagogy. The entry is about a series of strategies and tactics which students can learn and then use to un-design the project, so to speak, changing and manipulating the design to push it forward”.

To facilitate this process, Loh, Leggett and Ngieng ensured their entry was based on a simple strategy. “We broke the project into three basic parts: the roof, the grounds and the enclosure. Each part has its own particular line of research enquiries, in terms of materials, processes and manufacturing.” Loh hopes students will work seamlessly to incorporate new research, technology and forward thinking with fundamental building and design strategies to form a ‘continuous design process’ which advances design thinking.

“Hooke Park specialises in using advanced timber technology,” Loh explains. “There’s a commitment to ethical and sustainable building; all the timber used in construction projects is sourced from the grounds. Students develop techniques of 3D scanning to survey trees, process data and create digital models that can then be fabricated. They fell the trees themselves, dress the wood, and use the extensive timber workshop and robotics arms to machine the trees into buildable components.”

The AA anticipates that the final project will be completed in 2 - 3 years. The students have already started ‘unpacking’ the design and will begin fabricating full-scale prototype fragments of the building in July.

The competition was open to a large international community of AA members, alumni, teachers and students. Loh, Leggett and Ngieng’s project is one of two chosen schemes. AA Masters-level students have been tasked with combining ideas and strategies from both schemes into the final project.

The team is already following progress made to date. “We are keen to see how the students ultimately shift the design ownership to themselves”.