Root and Branch

Fourth Door Research’s Building with Water and Root & Branch symposia - Autumn 2018.

Over two consecutive Saturday’s in late September and early October 2018 Fourth Door co-hosted two cross-disciplinary symposia, Building with Water & Root & Branch.

The first of these symposia twosome, Building with Water (in association with MakingLewes) happened on September 29th in Lewes, while on the following weekend Saturday Root & Branch was held at Waterloo Oasis City Farm on October 5th, home of our co-hosts Feilden Fowles Architects.

Overlapping connections were at the heart of the Building with Water symposium - between water and the built and natural environment, between architecture and materials sources, and between geography and sustainable futures – with water flowing through all of these. This wide angled exploration began with flooding at home and in the world, so that Richard Coutts, Britain’s leading floating building architect, spoke alongside Nicholas Graber and Ruhul Abdin the former curator of Bengal Stream, the latter focused on participatory Bangladesh projects, and all three spoke to the challenges of the rising tides. Sanitation, a key to water infrastructure was addressed by Maggie Black and, at the other end of the spectrum, a water ritual performance broadened the afternoon’s span and imaginative reach by the co-organisers of Pevensey Water Week, Clare Whistler and Charlotte Still. Finally, the relations between mega-damming projects, materials manufacture, drought and decentralised water provision were tackled through the eyes of two very different if comparable country contexts, Iceland and Iraqi Kurdistan. The Icelandic poet, story teller and environmentalist Andri Snaer Magnasson, gave a mesmerising talk, ranging high and wide across apparently unrelated subjects before the storylines all came together around the telling of his part in the Icelandic Highland mega-dam protests. After Magnasson, the afternoon was closed by architect Leon Radeljic and development worker Leif Hinrichson telling the Make Lewes Festival’s audience about their inspiring Chamchamal Healing Garden project. Though these individual and diverse projects spanned different continents and contexts, they once again brought home how building with water is such an interlinked and planet-wide issue, challenge and indeed experience.

Root & Branch was Fourth Door’s inaugural timber and natural materials London all-dayer. A full schedule of talks on the core trinity of the temperate world’s leading natural building materials; thatch, rammed earth and wood, took place on what felt like a freezing early October day. To complement the talks there were building visits, a materials demonstration, and a timber and natural materials micro fair, all held under or near the canopy of FeildenFowles’s City Farm barn. The timber theme was organised to get two themed timber conversations, Regional UK timber and carpentry collaborations and the future of CLT and engineered timber up close and interacting, and see how and in what ways these material connections extended further.  Ed Fowles, Carpenter Oak’s Adam Milton, Structure Workshop’s Pete Laidlor and Alex Thomas from Timber Workshop all contributed to the first discussion. The later afternoon CLT session introduced one of the wonder-wood’s key originator’s, professor Gerhard Schickhofer from Graz Technical University, Austria to English shores and a British audience for the first time, while WaughThistleton’s Andrew Waugh, dRMM’s Jonas Lencer and Liam Dewar from CLT specialists Eurban all added presentations to draw the day’s events to a rounded close. Before that Rowland Keable’s rammed earth demonstration turned out to be particularly popular with the sizeable, mixed audience  of architects, engineers, carpenters, anthropologists and even a couple of foresters. Earlier the day had kicked off with Architype’s James Todd’s talking about the eco-veteran studio’s highest profile project in their thirty plus year career trajectory, the UEA Adapt Enterprise Centre, the contemporary thatch facaded office on the University’s Norwich campus, which also occasioned the newly set up Fourth Door Books Imprint to celebrate the arrival of its first publication - Super-Thatch. All in all, though the cold was a challenge, people left excited and with spirits raised and their eyes looking forward and loaded with layers of new natural building materials information and insight.


Video links to Building with Water’s speaker’s and downloadable power-points and presentations from Root & Branch can be found below.

Building with Water

Ruhul Abdin, from Paraa., a trans-continental Dhaka-London based architectural studio, who discussed  

Niklaus Grabercurator of the international Bengal Stream Bangladeshi architecture exhibition (reviewed in Unstructured here) talking about how water defines building culture across sea level Bangladesh

Maggie Black– world water and sanitation authority and author of the Global Atlas of Water                                              

Richard Coutts– founder and principal  of BACA Architects  the UK’s leading specialist floating buildings studio

Clare Whistler and Charlotte Still, co-founders of Pevensey Marshes Water Week Festival and Jane Trowell from PLATFORM performing calmed the day down with their water ritual

Andri Snaer Magnasson, Icelandic poet and environmentalist whose Dreamland  book and film activism was instrumental in stopping the runaway damming of central Highlands Iceland by heavy industry, preserving rivers and lake habitats for wildlife and bird populations.

Leon Radeljic (ZRS Architekten/Ingenieure)  and Leif HinrichsonJiyan Foundation) on the Chamchamal Healing Garden for Victims of Torture and War Trauma in Northern (Kurdistani) Iraq

Root & Branch participants – (click on names for power-points or presentations)

Prof Gerhard Schickhofer, Graz Technical University – Professor Schickhofer was instrumental in the early CLT research and the beginnings of Austria’s first CLT factory

Andrew Waugh,WaughThistleton the north London studio at the forefront of London’s CLT revolution, including their two landmark CLT housing projects, Murray Grove and Dalston Lane

Liam Dewar, Eurban, the original UK CLT engineering and building company

Jonas Lencer, from dRMM, architects of Kingsdale School sports hall, the first UK CLT building and leading the turn to 21st Century engineered timber in Britain.

Ed Fowles, from Feilden Fowles, Root & Branch’s co-hosts on their timber projects including their locally sourced chestnut glulam Homerton College, Cambridge

Steve Johnson from, Flimwell Woodland Enterprise Centre, E Sussex , the pioneering Sussex timber centre

Alex Thomas and Jan Ciechanowicz, Timber Workshop and Pete Laidler, Structure Workshop, carpenters and engineers of the Oasis City Farm community barn

Adam Milton, Carpenter Oak & Woodland, the original oak and timber frame building company

James Todd, Architype – architect of the Enterprise Centre, their University of East Anglia showcase natural materials project and the first thatch facaded building in Britain.

Rowland Keable,  Rammed Earth Consulting, a demonstration from the UK’s leading rammed earth specialist

Philip Gumuchjidan – talking about  Gmuchjdian’s Studio’s rammed earth collaboration with Rowland Keable for the 2018 Venice Biennale Tread Lightly Armenian Pavilion exhibition

Fourth Door is planning another Root & Branch all-dayer for September 2019.