Prior to coming under the ownership of the Architectural Association, Hooke Park was developed in the 1980s by the Parnham Trust as a college for teaching and researching new ways of using wood in furniture and construction. A small campus was built in the forest, following the ethic of using low-value timber from the surrounding forest as construction material. The result was three groundbreaking prototype buildings by award-winning architects, which demonstrate the rich potential of round-wood construction. They form a provocative architectural legacy, and are an important educational tool for the AA to have inherited.
Designed by Richard Burton of ABK and Frei Otto, with the engineers Buro Happold, uses spruce thinnings from the forest that form a compression grid-shell structure. Complete in 1989, the result is a remarkable long-span enclosure built using waste materials from the surrounding forest. Two of the three bays of the roof accommodate a large fully equipped timber workshop while the third contains an office-studio with computing facilities and a small library.
The dormitory was completed in 1999. Designed by Edward Cullinan with Buro Happold, it also uses green wood from Hooke’s forest, providing eight bedrooms around a central communal space. A timber lattice of spruce thinnings carries a planted turf roof.
Also designed by ABK and Frei Otto with Buro Happold, was built in 1985. It was designed as a prototype house and uses an experimental structure that consists of roundwood A-frames from which a tent-like tensile timber roof is suspended. Today, the building contains the kitchen and dining space for staff and students.
Since 2002, when the Architectural Association took ownership of Hooke Park, students and tutors have realised a series of small-scale projects within the woodland. Here is a sample of them:
For four consecutive academic years from 2005/06 to 2008/09 students in Intermediate Unit 2 engaged in a year-long collaborative process of designing and building a pavilion, exploring the possibilities of design in wood using the facilities at Hooke Park during the construction process, to be installed in Bedford Square for the opening of the end-of-year exhibition Projects Review. This Pavilion, designed and built in 2005/6, has been relocated back to its orginal place of construction.
The Crossings Project, completed in 2007, is an experimental footbridge structure within the forest. Funded by the Custerson Award, it is a student-built project led by Valentin Bontjes van Beek and Nathalie Rozencwajg. The AV Custerson Award is given annually to a member of the Architectural Association community to fund a project promoting the use of timber at Hooke Park.
A Separate Place is a hanging retreat in the forest built in 2007 during a month-long summer workshop by a student group led by Custerson Award recipient Jesse Randzio.
Hooke Park is designated as Ancient Woodland, and the forest is a mix of spruce, beech and other species planted mainly in the 1950s. An active forestry programme maintains the woodland, with the objectives of sustainable timber production and improved biodiversity.