Woodland Design Lab archive

woodland design lab flier


Led by Jenny Hall of Craftedspace and Tabitha Pope of the ZEDfactory architects and Recycled Venues.

Our process seeks a poetic sense of place reached consensually and sensitively…

Located at Graig Wen, a beautiful award-winning eco-campsite in North Wales from Thursday 18 – Sunday 21 August 2011. See www.graigwen.co.uk

Cost: £125 includes 3 nights camping, all meals and materials

Click here to register

Who is it for

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

What is it about

Bringing creative hearts and minds together in a beautiful place to create a site specific architectural intervention.

We seek an open rather than fixed process and consider that this will provide the best response(s) to the site and could allow something truly poetic to arise. We will probably create experimental pieces and models of ideas and hope that one or more beautiful semi-permanent things will manifest to become a great asset for Graig Wen.

What you need to know

The following information outlines who is running the design lab and need to know information for the weekend. Please continue to check here for more up to date information in response to FAQs and potential lift sharing. Updated 22.06 to include Aims & Programme


Jenny runs her own business creating handmade buildings and landscapes. Her sensitivity to space developed in her Architectural BA combines with a practical understanding grounded in her carpentry and joinery NVQ and subsequent experience in the heavy end of the timber frame industry. Jenny is passionate about quality public space at the heart of communities. She has pulled together large groups of people to create site specific and spontaneous physical environments and believes that creating collectively can be a transcendent experience.


Tabitha has recently completed her RIBA part 3 while in practice with Bill Dunster at The Zed Factory. She is currently developing the Stramitzed structurally insulated panel system made of compressed straw and Welsh timber. After working at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Tabitha founded the organisation Recycled Venues, an arts network for architectural magpies where she and Jenny first worked together creating The Junk Boat in 2007. She believes meaningful architecture can be a tool for social change and specialises in designing radical environmental solutions to shelter, energy and food production problems.


How to get there

The design lab will be run in the woods at Graig Wen on the Mawddach Estuary near Barmouth in the Snowdonia National Park. Their website www.graigwen.co.uk details how to get there. Please come by public transport, we can arrange pick up from the train station or please ensure that you discuss bringing any vehicles onto site with us as soon as possible. We encourage lift sharing.

Arrive any time after lunchtime on Thursday 18th August, leaving after lunchtime on the Sunday or on Monday morning if that’s better for travelling. We will not provide Thursday lunch or Sunday evening dinner but there are lots of great options locally including the George V pub at Pontmaenpool and evening dinner can also be booked at the b&b.

Camping and catering

Please bring your own tent or let us know if you would rather camp in a larger communal tent provided by us. We should be able to supply small tents as well for individuals with some notice.

Catering will be provided in a canvas marquee. 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 but can retreat to the warmth of the living and dining rooms in the b&b if it rains.

About the woodland design lab


• To explore a site specific context and to create our own brief(s) for responsive design propositions

• To develop the propositions collaboratively within the technical and material constraints available using scale models and 1:1 modelling

• To maintain flexibility to ensure the intervention(s) satisfy their brief and the needs of the site

• To gain confidence in manifesting ideas into large scale spatial constructs


Day 1 Thursday: get to know each other

Arrival after lunch: set up your tent, have a cuppa in the catering marquee, explore the 300 acre site and the Mawddach estuary

4pm: teatime and introduction to course tutors Jenny & Tabitha, carpenters Giles and Mehdi and John & Sarah who run the campsite and b&b

Incorporating games and facilitation tools to help with group decision making

Introduce students to the workshop tools and materials providing a tool induction and discussion of health and safety protocol

7pm: dinner

Day 2 Friday: get to know the place, the options

Breakfast: self service

9am: make a swing, a table, a nest or…….. To provide the group with a place to think, discuss and to play, starting the process of making straight away

11am: walk around the site to familiarise yourself, choosing a place you find interesting. Sit there for a while, looking, listening, smelling. Think why you like it. What are its qualities? How could the qualities of the place be heightened? What would you build there if anything at all?

1pm: lunch

2pm: share your experiences of the site with one other person. Let the couples join to discuss in a group of 4. Bring all the groups together to share their investigations with the whole. Use pen and paper and chalkboards. Re-visit sites together to discuss observations

Create text, images and scale models to express values and concepts to create a visual brief

4pm: teatime

Conceptualise approximately 4 propositions to explore

7pm: dinner

Day 3 Saturday: material investigations

Breakfast: self service

9am: test design propositions through material and technology investigation and decide what we are we going to build where

Start making and prototyping

Technology exploration and skill development to relate to student needs and interest in response to both the materials and tools available and the design propositions under discussion

Carpenters on hand to help explore, for example: timber joinery including mortice and tenon and lapped joints; methods of creating water tight roof and wall elements; methods for introducing tension into systems to add strength and to utilise lean timber sections; use of wedges for tightening; lashing and binding including securing timber to tree trunks without directly fixing into them; steam bending

Materials available from site – larch and Douglas Fir round poles, standing bone oak, cut logs, felled trees, willow, hazel, clay and slate

Additional materials – 6 x1 sawn timber, 4 x 2 sawn timber, plywood, plastic sheeting or butyl rubber, tensile cables, fixings, string and rope, screws, bolts, nails

Tools – jack saws, billhooks, drawknives, chisels, hammers, sledgehammer, cordless and impact drills, jigsaw, portable table saw and chainsaw as well as ladders and workhorses. We hope to create a steam bender for the course

1pm: lunch

2pm: review our process and go to the site(s) to check how what we are planning will work in the context, if we are not working on site already

4pm: teatime

Stand back and discuss how different elements are coming together. Are we achieving what we were planning? Are we being sensitive to the site and our brief?

7pm: dinner

Day 4 Sunday: build build build

Breakfast: self service

9am: making on site, wherever that may be

11am: teatime and snack onsite

Continue making

2pm: late lunch

3pm: opening ceremony, reflection on what we have learnt and celebration!

Either leave in the afternoon or if you prefer to travel Monday morning, go kayaking/ cycling/ walking and arrange Sunday dinner either at the b&b or The George V pub or……..

Our philosophy

Holistic design: What interests us in the process of making architecture is the link between the body, the mind, the place and the material. We are interested in the way that space can affect the way people behave, and equally how people’s perception of a place depends on their own thoughts and feelings.

Making: We like making things, and we value the confidence that craft skills can give you when designing.

It’s all in the process: We value different aspects of design – talking, thinking, drawing, making and remaking, at small scale and one to one scale.

Loose fit design: Let’s see where the design will take us, rather than having a fixed idea from the start. To quote from ‘the Tao of Architecture’: ‘fulfilment without being fulfilled is desirable.’

Sensitivity to site: We try to maintain flexibility and permeability for as long as possible, only concretising the form at the last possible stage. This allows for sensitivity to the site as we start to intervene with it.

More heads are better than one: We like to design collectively and we believe that the process is just as important as the product, although often the product is more refined having gone through a long distillation process.

Connection between place and people: We seek a poetic sense of place reached consensually and sensitively

Fun: the process of making architecture should be enjoyable and playful

Contingency: Every group of people is different, as is every individual, so design will reflect this. The saying “We never enter the same room twice”

Our approach

“We will never meet again in these woods in the same way and our task of meeting mindfully and soulfully to share in a collective experience is unique. Our perception of where we are, why we are here and what we hope to offer and receive starts to form the intention we seek to manifest…”

We are assuming that the students will be keen to make things, so we will take a material based line of enquiry though we would still like the students to keep stepping back and being reflective.

A driving force should be: How much can we achieve with how little effort?

We’d like our workshop to work with the natural rhythms of the day, starting with something physical to get everyone moving, then later having some time to reflect and think. Regular breaks for tea and food and regular changes between activities give time for informal discussions and time to reflect. After lunch is a bit of a down time, so we plan to have some kind of quiet activity during digestion time, and then back into something more physical towards the late afternoon. Evening should be for collective discussions around fires, and dreaming up crazy ideas for the next day…

We’d like to incorporate games and facilitation tools which could help with group decision making – ie drama games (for ice breaking) and group decision facilitation tools (like De Bono’s six hats, the yes/no paper on table exercise, Augustus Boal exercises etc)

Key inspirations

  • Maya Lin
  • Nabeel Hamdi
  • Peter Zumthor
  • Maurice Mitchell
  • Christopher Alexander – A pattern language

Architecture >

Straw bale home

Elegance and innovation with Douglas Fir stilt construction

Art >

The Junk Boat

Eliciting imaginative play from both adults and children

Contact Us >

If you would like to discuss a project please call 01654 702340 or click here.