Twinned design lab 2012, Snowdonia

woodland design lab programme 2012

Fri 27 – Mon 30 April

Following the success of our first Woodland Design Laboratory in 2011 at Graig Wen, we have been invited by John & Sarah to return to their 45 acre campsite in the heart of Snowdonia to re-imagine their communal campfire and shelter.

This project comprises two distinct laboratories, firstly a design lab in April and then a build lab in June.

Together they provide the opportunity to design in advance and then plan and build, a beautiful, timber structure for the public to enjoy and for you to include in your portfolio.

Located at Graig Wen, a beautiful award-winning eco-campsite in North Wales.

Deposit: £20 per course

Design lab: £180

Build lab: £200

Both labs: £350

You interested in coming? Let us know here.

Click here to register

Design Lab April 2012

Who is it for

Suitable for students of architecture, design, engineering and anyone interested in collective creativity and making with their hands.

This course meets the needs of those who want to be involved in making an architectural intervention from start to finish.

A substantial discount has been offered if you can attend both courses because the most fun to be had will be coming up with ideas and learning to manifest them. These twinned courses will especially suit those used to designing or making exclusively. See details for build lab here.

(Anticipate upcoming details of the September woodlab if you want to be involved in a process with no determined outcome.)

What it’s about

Bringing creative hearts and minds together in a beautiful place to create a site specific architectural intervention. Learning to work consensually, operating as a single intelligence to create the best response to our self-determined shared values.


The design lab will take place in the yurts in the birch woodland adjacent to the site. You can bring your own tent or sleep in the large communal yurt, which sleeps 4-5. Or sleep in the Ty’r Adar holiday cottage, which sleeps a further 4-6 people. 1-2 people can sleep in the new Caban which arrives in the woodland this Spring. Learn more about the portable eco-cabin from the designers Tom and Jonathon who will visit during the course. We will be able to use this space throughout the course as well.

Limited bookings for beds in the yurt and holiday cottage are secured when you place your deposit.

Please arrive for the 3 day course from Friday afternoon. 3 gourmet vegetarian meals will be served each day in Ty’r Adar, from Friday supper to Monday lunch. As bushcraft events are run weekly at the Campfire by Heath Dawson of Bushcraft Firefox, he will run a taster session in firecraft skills on the Friday evening as both a skills share and so that the group can see what his bushcraft needs are for the site.

Last year tafline Laylin from Inhabitat design was embedded for the duration of the first woodland design laboratory. She wrote two lovely articles, one focusing on the design and process and one on the ethics and infrastructure that we created.

How to get there

The course will be run in the woods at Graig Wen on the Mawddach Estuary near Barmouth in the Snowdonia National Park. Their website details how to get there. Please come by public transport or leave your car at the nearby Morfa Mawddach train station, from where we can arrange free pick up. We encourage lift sharing. It’s a lovely cycle along the footpath on the mawddach estuary to the site.

Arrive any time after lunchtime on Friday 27th April, leaving after lunchtime on Monday. We will not provide Friday lunch.

Camping and catering

Confirm your interest in a bed in the yurt or holiday cottage for the design lab when you register and pay your deposit, or please let us know that you are bringing your own tent.

Catering will be provided in the Ty’r Adar holiday cottage. Breakfast will be croissants and tea and coffee for breakfast each day with muesli and yoghurt followed by freshly prepared lunch and dinner. Meals will be largely vegetarian though we hope to provide at least one local fish or lamb supper. Please advise us of any dietary requirements. We hope to enjoy evenings around the fire and in the large communal yurt but can retreat to the warmth of the holiday cottage if it is cold.

Information about the course


• To explore a site specific context through immersion in the environment and the constraints and possibilities

• To develop a set of values through drawing and model making for testing prototypes

• To generate multiple prototypes using scale models and 1:1 modelling

• To hone a design response, determining the route for further research and development

• To plan build lab


The woodland design lab programme is inspired by the social technology process the ‘theory of U’ where observations about the present state are transformed into intuitions and judgements to make decisions about the future. Simply through a process of being present and sensing – pre-sencing.

Kathryn Moore’s book ‘Overlooking the visual’ explores how looking and developing visual ideas and then re-interpreting them are rigorous visual research methods we employ to generate design concepts which we have created by being both present and by fishing into the subconscious.

We are insired by designers such as Maya Lin and Studio Weave who use narration and storytelling as key design tools respectively.


Arrival after lunch, familiarisation with site and pitching tents
6pm firecraft with Heath Dawson of Firefix Bushcraft
8pm dinner
9-9:45pm Pecha Kucha style presentation in Ty’r Adal:
Everyone to present (including John & Sarah who wil show how the site is currently used throughout the year) 20 seconds per 10 images per person (send slideshow, bring USB or hard copy pics)
Feedback forms handed out to fill in over the course


• What the place is used for, what it means to people.
• Explore how effectively the site supports its current activities.
• How we can plant seeds of what could it be…
What do we want to learn from the site? Could include:
• Site survey( a la battleships): Using rope to mark out an approx level grid using ropes, say 5m x 5m to plot location of trees, stones, flat areas and develop height data for nodes using theodolyte. Focus more data on areas likely to accommodate shelter
• Note tree species – eg density of canopy across site
• Where does the sun rise and set at different times of year – quizz John & Sarah
• Drawing pictures of the canopy lying down looking up and reflections of the canopy in a mirror
• Draw pictures of the views in and the views out noting key views and features
• Observation of anything beautiful or captivating.
• Photo essays to include panorama shots
• Stories and words to capture either what is or what isn’t
11am teatime
Continue with the site observation exercises
1pm lunch
• The experience of architecture
• Material possibilities + functional/ spatial intention + creativity=sculpture/ structure/space
Revisit your experience of site using words, pictures, and stories to explore spatial concepts
4pm teatime
Pin up of visual material – exploring sequentially the images and or words that draw us
8pm supper
(Option: to take cold dinner down to Frongoch boatyard from 6pm, to enjoy drinks, fire and live music after the day’s boat regatta. 50 mins drive down the coast)


What do we recall – what did the night tell us? Define visual storyboard
• Basic tool induction
• Cutting, cleaving, moulding, bending: in small groups or individually
• Exploring ideas on site and through model making in the yurt
• Internet based research in Ty’r Adal with printing facilities in office
11am teatime
Continue with PROTOPYPES
1pm lunch
Test against values – can the group choose one idea, can it’s proponents advocate it’s merits?
4pm teatime
What works, what doesn’t? What needs additional refinement – how do we test?
Develop drawings and models to determine the following:
• Materials and fixings list
• Works schedule
• Skills specialisation or skills gap to fill
• Division of roles to undertake tasks
8pm supper


• Contacting local sawmills and suppliers for prices
• Investigating other local resources
• Developing drawings and models of the design
11am teatime
• Continued design development
• Creation of a timeline for tasks to be completed
• Online meetings scheduled?
1pm lunch
Round up of course, feedback forms handed back in. Thanks and au revoir until 14th June!

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