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Frame detail: Colerne Primary School dining rooms, Colerne, Somerset, by Mitchell Taylor Workshop

[Working detail 31.03.11] The project was driven by the need to find a low-cost timber structural system to span nine metres

Frame construction

I was introduced to the project by timber framer Charley Brentnall. We wanted to do a low-cost didactic timber-framed building, and our early sketches were too complicated and expensive, forcing a very simple and economical scheme that didn’t try too hard.

The section is based around a plywood flitch/Douglas fir truss that we developed into a solid bow string truss, portalised with stiffeners at the corners. It’s cheap and simple and also avoids the upwards thrust of more conventional bow string trusses. The Douglas fir was grown and milled locally, and the trusses built in Charley’s workshop two miles from the school. The plywood is laminated in overlapping sheets and glued and bolted together with countersunk hex-headed bolts.

I became fetishistic about the language of the carpenter’s temporary constructional gear – the jigs, wedges, props etc and, as ever, came away wondering if more of that theatre of construction should have been retained in the finished building.

Piers Taylor, founding partner, Mitchell Taylor Workshop

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