Pioneering the Potential 2022 - The Xylo Sessions

Three wood+ evenings hosted by Fourth Door Research in Lewes, Sussex  April through June 2022

Ferme du Rail urban farm, Paris – photo Grand Huit


In-depth information and context

About the Xylo Sessions

The three Wood+ evenings are a next step in Fourth Door’s Pioneering the Potential events, covering a broad of elements in the ongoing emergence of timber and post carbon natural building culture.

The Xylo Sessions build on Fourth Door’s 2021 and 2019 Pioneering the Potential events, highlighting a spectrum of overlapping themes connected to the  post carbon future.

Aiming to square circles, the first two Xylo Session wood+ evenings cast a lens on two contrasting tendencies that can be found in the timber resurgence: the return to popularity of crafted and traditional timber framing, and the increasing use of new digital technologies fused with with wood-working across a variety of contexts. The final Xylo Session evening brings two current projects from world capitals Paris and London to Lewes, each highlighting 21st century timber projects, and in the Parisian context straw and earth.

Xylo Session 01 explores the return of timber framing and carpentry over the last forty years (April 8th), while Session 02 profiles the fusion of high tech with hands-on at the research, student, and studio level, (May 13th) and the final evening highlights how timber and bio-based materials in buildings are growing across international urban capitals and cities, showcasing projects from London and Paris (June 10th.) All three evenings aim to inspire and help in envisioning the potential and emerging futures for Sussex and the South East’s growing wood and timber culture.

Themes, projects, and studios will be complemented with features and focus on Fourth Door’s Annular wood and timber culture site over the next weeks.


About the Speakers, projects and evening themes

April 8th - Xylo Sessions 01 - Timber frame & timber carpentry renaissance

Charley Brentnall founded Carpenter Oak & Woodland (COW) in 1989. COW was one of the first in a new wave of contemporary oak and timber framing companies (these days called Carpenter Oak) and helped turn around the near disappearance of UK timber framing and carpentry before going on to help propel timber framing’s resurgence and return to popularity through subsequent decades. Brentnall has worked on many ground-breaking timber projects spanning both old and new. They include the restoration of Windsor Castle’s ceiling and the Kinsol trestle bridge, in British Columbia, Canada, the Earth Centre’s Solar CanopyHooke Park’s Big Shed, and the repair and refurbishment of the explorer’s Robert Scott and Earnest Shackleton’s Antarctic huts. More recently he has been a tutor at the Architectural Association’s Dorset centre, Hooke Park and formed a new company Xylotek, which draws together traditional timber skills with digital tech such as robots and 3D printers to design experimental timber buildings and structures.


Roots Architecture@WOMAD (2011)


Sally Daniels runs tangentfield, an experimental community architect studio in Bristol and helps run the Hands On Bristol community live workshops programme at the University of the West of England. Sally was also architect at COW, which required understanding different carpentry informed approaches to building design – which remain untaught in architecture schools. Since 2010 Sally has worked with Fourth Door, co-leading the Make Lewes Festival’s Kinship and Fourth Door’s Roots Architecture@WOMAD ‘design & make’ workshops.

Dylan Walker and Paddy CoxDylan Walker formed Built by Artizans in 2013 in Midhurst, West Sussex, after thirty years in the construction sector, and several years working with permacultural ecobuilder Ben Law on natural building projects. Built by Artizans continued the natural building approach, with Paddy Cox soon joining, mainly in West Sussex and Hampshire although also wider afield. They are currently completing Watersmeet, a cruck-frame barn near Emsworth, Hants, which Walker and Cox will highlight in their talk.
Further - Annular Archive – Carpentry Comes Back


Watersmeet Barn – Built by Artizans


May 13th - Xylo Sessions 02 – High Tech & Handmade

Peter Scully is director of B-made, The London Bartlett architectural school’s Manufacturing and Design exchange high tech workshop and is responsible for the school’s Stratford HereEast based architecture and robotics Design for Manufacture master’s programme, whose students have been the first to use and experiment at the Bartlett’s new forest base, Flimwell Park, on East Sussex’s border with Kent. The first result of these experiments is a high tech anagama kiln.


Studio Bark's U-Build Tiny Cork House – screen grab from U-Build film


Tom Bennett is an architect at Studio Bark, a London architectural practice with an emphasis on timber focused sustainability. Bennett is involved in Studio Bark’s digital fabrication projects including U-Build, Studio Bark’s open-source modular self-build system, aimed at making self-build straight-forward and accessible across a series of different scales - from garden sheds and tiny houses to larger homes. Bennett will also talk about the work of the Architects Climate Action Network which he and Studio Bark are also active in.
Watch short animations and films about Studio Bark’s U-Build Tiny Cork House (scroll down).


Robin and Freya bird hide shelters - Kielder Water and Forest Park - Photo Studio Weave


Karn Sandilands – Sandilands is one of the founders of Portslade based Millimetre, the design engineer and makers studio. Millimetre have worked on many bespoke specialist cultural and art projects, requiring skills ranging from joinery to robotics-based making, and spanning small furniture designs to full scale building type projects. Out of the senior design team, Sandilands has been responsible for Millimetre’s wood focused work. These include the ZDA Garden Pod, Kings Library staircase and the Freya and Robin bird hide shelters at Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland.

Further – Annular’s Forest 4.0


Ferme du Rail – Grand Huit


June 10th – Xylo Sessions 03 - Post Carbon cities and countryside - straw & timber

Marine Kerboua - Ferme du Rail – Marine Kerboua is one of the original members of Grand Huit, a Parisian women’s architectural co-operative studio, which works on social and community projects in and around the capital, and with a focus on building with local timber, and bio and land-based materials.

Grand Huit’s Ferme du Rail (Railway Farm) urban farm project is one of this year’s EU architectural Mies Award finalists. Set in the heart of Paris, Ferme du Rail is a social and community led project providing homes and work for the local homeless community. Designed around a permaculture based urban farm adjoining a disused raised railway walk and cycle way, the farm is comprised of two co-designed buildings, apartment housing for both homeless and students, and a second building housing ground floor level farm facilities, a first-floor restaurant, and a roof garden greenhouse. Each of the Ferme du Rail buildings features local chestnut, straw and earth building techniques.

Steve Wallis, dRMMWorkstackSteve Wallis is project architect on Workstack, a five-storey cross laminated timber industrial (CLT) building in Woolwich, South London, which provides multistorey workspaces for trade, small scale manufacture and urban makers. Commissioned by the Greenwich Enterprise Board, dRMM’s Workstack aims to show a new minimal footprint industrial building compared to the many sprawling industrial estates that have proliferated across urban Britain. It is the latest in a series of timber buildings by dRMM, who are recognised pioneers of industrial timber and CLT architecture since the early 2000’s, including the award winning Hastings Pier project.  

Further - Annular Archive - dRMM and CLT


dRMM’s Workstack, Woolwich, the CLT structure nearing completion - photo Oliver Lowenstein