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Beginning with the fall semester seminar, the Topology+ Timber studio approached the timber pavilion through a series of exercises, both in research and prototyping. The first half of the seminar was dedicated to discovering how to use timber. We investigated joinery methods, structural systems, and timber as a material. We also looked at case studies of timber pavilions, especially those that used computational methodologies for design and digital fabrication for construction.

We discovered that there was a range of timber design techniques and fabrication methods. While we had seen examples of some of these intersections, there were some areas where we knew we could innovate new applications of methods. Taking these studies into account, we designed and prototyped timber chairs. These chairs used a range of techniques, including innovative joinery methods, kerf bending, bending through material properties, and adaptable structures.

After these investigations into timber properties, systems, and fabrication methods, we began considering the programmatic and spatial qualities that the pavilion would require. We considered general design requirements for classrooms—both indoor and outdoor—as well as the history of freedom schools, learning and educational models, and architectural precedents. This background knowledge led us to develop a workshop to engage with students, parents, and teachers at Ray Elementary and jump-started quick design studies at the end of the seminar.

Throughout the seminar, we learned and taught each other about timber and about education, pushing the work from both the fabrication and the conceptual sides. Approaching the work collaboratively, we gathered the tools we would use in the studio in the winter.