Hooke Park is a 350-acre working forest in Dorset, south west England, that is owned and operated by the Architectural Association. The woodland contains a small educational facility centred on a woodworking workshop, that was built in the 1980s and 1990s as a furniture and forestry college. Hooke Park has been part of the AA since 2002. The combination of the workshop, a working forest and the rich community and craft traditions of Dorset provides a unique opportunity for a school of architecture. Hooke Park’s facilities are typically used by visiting groups of tutors and students for teaching activities that are focused on the workshop as a site for experimentation and fabrication, or within the forest as an alternative to the central London environment of Bedford Square.
A new phase of activity at Hooke Park began in 2010, through which the AA aims to develop Hooke Park as a site for exploring rural architectures, the crafts of construction, and sustainable timber technologies. Since spring 2010 a group of students have been resident full-time at Hooke and the new Design & Make graduate design course began in autumn 2010. These activities are part of a strategic plan for the future of Hooke Park, which has been developed by the AA in consultation with West Dorset Council, the local community and professional advisors and consultants. A Planning Application seeking outline consent for the development of facilities at Hooke Park was submitted in autumn 2009. Central to the strategic plan is the design and construction of these new facilities, as a teaching activity on a yearly cycle, as part of the new Design & Make programme.
The existing buildings at Hooke Park, designed by collaborations between ABK, Frei Otto, Buro Happold and Edward Cullinan, are remarkable demonstrations of an intelligent approach to maximising the resource provided by the forest – by using green round-wood poles provided by forest thinning, a silvicultural waste product. The future projects at Hooke will aim to resurrect the ambition of that approach to building.
With its location a few miles from the south coast of England, and in farming land full of history, students at Hooke Park are well placed to learn from a community rich in the crafts of rural living. The Design + Make course will seek to learn from local craftspeople with traditional skills in woodworking, boat building and construction. The aim is for a reciprocal knowledge-sharing relationship with the local community.
The Hooke Park woodland is open to the public through its rights-of-way. Contact information and details for visiting students are available here.