Pacific Environments Architects
Working in an environment of a living tree, where there are no building codes. The tree needed structural testing using a ‘ping-test’ where a rope and measuring system was set up to test the trunk…
What was the most difficult issue about working within this project type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your design?
Working in an environment of a living tree, where there are no building codes. The tree needed structural testing using a ‘ping-test’ where a rope and measuring system was set up to test the trunk, root system etc. Also looking after the welfare of the tree –an arborist was employed to advise. The tree was 40 years old and still growing. Trees in New Zealand generally grow much quicker than other parts of the world and their cellular structure is weaker. Subsequently larger margins of safety were implemented.
The floor was 10m off the ground requiring significant scaffolding to support the workers and structure, which is 14metres high (the height of a 4-storey building.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect or designer in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the designer is changing on current projects?
All architects like challenges that test current ideas and conventions –which in turn expand one’s knowledge as we seek to design in unfamiliar territory. Keeping an open mind about the outcome was important rather than imposing preconditioned ideas into nature. This applied to both the design –concept and details, as well as the construction phase, where the team had to respond to the environmental challenges presented every day –the tree growing not quite straight, wind movement, junctions etc
How is your project possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
The challenges have inspired design solutions appropriate to the conditions presented –using timber technology, simple trusses, glue-laminated fins, joints and connections that allowed flexibility and movement, while retaining an overall design concept.
In the context of this project, how is your studio and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
We’re always looking at new ideas, materials, technologies and methods that inspire. Usually it is the specifics of the project, the site, the brief and peripheral factors that give a clue to direction –the research and approach unique to each project. It grows from both internal knowledge and external factors into one homogenous project.