Feilden Fowles Studio, Waterloo, London

Introduction

Oasis Farm Waterloo is an urban farm, tucked away in the heart of London, next to Waterloo Station, just to the south of Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. It is the site of a new timber-framed studio designed by the young architectural practice Feilden Fowles to house its growing team. The farm was established in 2014 on land owned by Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital. Since 2014 what was an overgrown and neglected strip of wasteland has been transformed into a flourishing community resource and a haven for nature. It is a collective home for a trio of organisations with a shared focus on education: the architect Feilden Fowles and the charities Jamie’s Farm and Oasis Waterloo.

Feilden Fowles designed a masterplan for the farm and were offered the studio site in exchange for their design services. The practice has designed all the facilities on the site: there are animal pens for pigs, sheep and hens and a sheltered outdoor classroom and kitchen. Organic food is grown in polytunnels and raised beds, giving disadvantaged and urban students the chance to work with plants and animals. A large new barn is planned for the site, to be used as a multi-functional space for education, venue hire and special events. The farm is a long and narrow strip of land and the studio, which is a shared space with employees of Jamie’s Farm, stands against the north west corner of the site, alongside its northern boundary with Royal Street. This position creates a generous courtyard garden on the south side, which has been designed by Dan Pearson Studio.

In keeping with its agricultural context, the studio is a simple monopitch, a barn-like building with a solid Douglas fir timber frame structure clad with corrugated Onduline sheets on the outside; the internal walls and ceiling are entirely lined with the warm glow of plywood and Douglas fir. The workspace occupies the central part of the 138m2 single storey building, with toilets and kitchen on the west side and a meeting room on the east. The long south wall is fully glazed and looks out over the courtyard garden, shaded from solar glare by a deep overhanging extension of the mono-pitched roof. The roof rises to the Royal Street boundary to incorporate a continuous row of large north-facing rooflights; like traditional artist studios they provide generous diffuse light and cross ventilation and, as they are at high level, privacy.

The studio was designed to embody the sustainable values of the practice and demonstrate a rational, highly articulated, low cost model for contemporary work and education spaces. But it also had to be capable of being dismantled and re-erected when the Waterloo lease comes to an end in a few years. The building structure is formed from a repetitive frame of paired timber components and is assembled using stainless steel pin connections, easily knocked out when dismantling.

It consists of twelve Douglas fir frames; each frame consists of paired 300 x 60mm beams supported on the north side by paired 300 x 60mm columns and on the south side by 70 x 150mm fabricated steel T-sections with full-height double-glazed units fixed between them. 12mm plywood spacers are set between the pairs of beams and columns.

The mono-pitched roof rises up to the north boundary along Royal Street with a continuous row of double-glazed rooflights at the eaves, two between each set of paired Douglas fir columns. The rooflights are supported on a Douglas fir sub-frame, secured at the base by projecting Douglas fir props which give the frames a gentle outwards-facing slope. Just below the props, a series of simple hinged plywood flaps act as manually operated cross-ventilation vents. The insulated timber stud wall is clad externally with Onduline corrugated roofing sheets. On the south side of the studio the paired Douglas fir beams extend over the full height glazing to shade it.

The internal solid walls and roof of the studio are lined throughout with Douglas fir plywood boards, cut to 2440 x 610mm lengths. The 1830mm column grid (equivalent to 3⁄4 of a standard ply sheet) and the 2440mm datum running around the studio’s plywood-lined interior, demonstrate how proportions have been carefully calibrated to minimise cuts and waste.

On the north wall the 18mm ply sheathing boards are fixed in alternating positions to act as a diaphragm, giving rigidity to the timber frame. The ply boards are exposed internally and act as the rear surface for a series of Douglas fir storage shelves which span between the timber columns.

Structure

Peter Laidler, Director, Structure Workshop, comments on the structure:

‘The brief called for an economic and de-mountable timber frame. This naturally led to a simple post and beam solution and the structural design effort was concentrated on proportion and detail. The final arrangement uses Douglas fir throughout and balances the size and spacing of primary, secondary and tertiary beams to contribute visually and make best use of materials.

A relatively shallow beam was selected for the 7 metre primary span, the pitch and absence of brittle finishes allowing typical deflection limits to be exceeded. By dividing the width of the beam in two, cheaper, more stable stock could be used and the visual bulk of the beam concealed with a shadow gap created with a plywood spacer. This gap was also used for integrated connections. To the rear the beam section is continued down as a post and the connection made using a steel plate and dowels. To better articulate the glazed elevation a fabricated steel tee was used as a column along the south elevation with expressed braced bays highlighting the positions of the paired entrance doors. Imperial dimensions are used throughout. 300mm deep primary beams, 150mm deep secondary purlins (housed for strength and to minimise the need for fasteners), and 75mm deep noggins. Primary beams are set at 1800mm centres, purlins at 600mm centres and noggins at staggered 2400mm centres, positioned under plywood butt joints. As a result there is no cut wastage in the plywood deck, which also acts as a plan diaphragm, directing lateral loads into the flank shear walls. The whole frame is supported by a shallow reinforced concrete raft’.

Sustainability

The studio demonstrates a low cost, sustainable building which is also demountable. Beams, rails and noggins were set out to minimise cuts and wastage in the plywood deck. A fabric­-first approach has optimised solar gain in winter, storing heat in the exposed slab, but with using the overhanging eaves to prevent over­heating and glare in summer. Hinged boards in the north wall open to aid natural cross­ventilation and cooling.

At the end of the lease, the practice intends to dismantle and re­-erect the studio to use as their southwest office. This re-use reduces potential landfill waste and will create an opportunity to develop the building’s performance.

Awards

Wood Awards, Small project winner 2017
rRIBA London Award winner 2017
AJ Small projects finalist 2017

Completion Date:

July 2016

Location:

Waterloo, London

Architect/Client:

Feilden Fowles Architects

Structural Engineer:

Structure Workshop

Main Contractor/Builder:

Miles Builders

Joinery Company:

Timber Workshop

Window Supplier:

West Leigh

Landscape Design:

Dan Pearson Studio

Timber Supplier:

S H Somerscales Ltd

Timber Elements:

structure, interior walls and roof deck, interior fittings

Timber Species:

British Douglas fir

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