Immersion 17

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Immersion 17 is a small structure that explores dowel laminated mass timber construction methodology. Built by hand over two-months in the summer of 2017 it offers an introduction to the wider themes of engineered lumber that are beginning to emerge in Europe and North America. As part of the Immersion program it suggests a new phase of “learning by doing” that lies at the core of Wright’s Fellowship program and demonstrated the buildings of Taliesin in Wisconsin.

Taliesin Summer Immersion – Taliesin, Wisconsin – S2017

Instructor Jason Griffiths

Students – Moin Vohra, Rishabh Barot , Devendra Patel, Will Fagan , Mayur Valur, Donna Baber

While dowel laminated timber is now produced at industrial scale (prefabricated wall and floor slabs) we were constrained a much smaller scale, localized scenario. By taking DLT as a starting point we were able to adapt its principles to constraints of locally supplied lumber, available technology and the efforts of six architecture students, one instructor and occasional contributions from local craftsmen. Our limitations on production and lifting equipment led a unitized system for stacked slotted timber wall elements that could be assembled by hand. Lacking the hydraulic compression equipment of industry, we had to rely on the temporary compressive strength of wood screws to achieve the frictional strength between the laminates. Once the panels were slotted into position we began to replace the screws with Beech dowels at random angles between the laminations and across the courses to establish the overall mass of the wall.

Moving from the wall to the roof provided another opportunity to extend this association by developing a new form of mass timber by corbelling wood into a truncated pyramid. By offsetting successive layers of dimensional lumber and screwing them together in a parallel arrangement (like nail laminated) we produced a solid, angled plane of timber. This sense of mass is then transferred from the walls to a load bearing internal roof that terminates in the central skylight.

 

The considerable strength of this system then allowed us to speculate on how far we could cantilever the roof. Naturally this is where some of the closet parallels with Wright have come across associations in the form of an “all-encompassing” roof that both physically and symbolically protects. When you first visit Taliesin this idea appears, at times, somewhat rhetorical (as if the measure of the extent is measure of homely sentiment). However, the purpose of the Immersion helps demonstrate how inseparable the pragmatism of these ideas are from the added aesthetic or symbolic association.

In our case the “broad eaves” are adapted to the particular problem of projecting mass timber against the weather. One of the main constraints of mass timber is to mitigate against any direct solar exposure or contact with standing water. Our proposal tests this as far as possible by attempting to expose the structure both internally and externally and shelter it from the elements. The combined bearing capacity of the mass walls and the strength of the truncated pyramid allowed us to cantilever a conventional dimensional lumber roof structure considerably further than we had expected. The resulting slightly oversized roof gave us maximum projection around the periphery of the timber core.