The Wallon Forestry Centre sits in the middle of the Ardennes Forest in Belgium, and stands out for its strong visual presence with a glass and wood palette.

Designed by architects Samyn and Partners, the Wallon Forestry Centre is used to treat silviculture seeds. The building comprises of a workshop, cold storage areas, offices and laboratories, and also features a dome-like structure.

Since timber is an important element of the region’s economy, the building’s owner sought to include wood in the materials palette in a highly technical manner. The dome is made from small double-layered 6m long pieces of wood joined together with steel bolts to form one continuous structural element (called a gridshell).

The wooden elements are covered in laminated glass tiles to provide a transparent cladding on the entire building while also successfully creating a strong visual presence for the structure against the surrounding landscape.

Fresh wood was used for the building because of its capacity to relieve pre-bending stresses from constant curvature. The double layered arc is composed of various rectangular pieces of wood with the circular segments similar to a funicular curve. Their axes are all implanted in radian plans forming a torus section. This economical design requires a limited number of different wood sections.

Using pre-bent perches to create a building is an age-old technique that has seen recent revival in the works of C. Mutschler with F. Otto in Mannheim (1975); Kikutake at Nara (1987), as well as the experimental buildings in Dorset (U.K) by architects Ahrends Burton and Koralec and engineer Edmund Happopld (1982).

Photographer: Images courtesy of NZWood