Serenity – CAT Professional Diploma Summer Building Project 2013

Home » Serenity – CAT Professional Diploma Summer Building Project 2013

Sebastian Lomas, one of our Professional Diploma in Architecture students, shares his experiences of the annual summer building project:

As is usual for the CAT summer building project, it all began with a 24-hour design charette in June with students working in teams or independently on their proposal for the project. The site was to be the space adjacent to the recently completed biomass building with a brief to provide a covered dry space for around 30 school children with storage for their belongings. Concurrently our designing had to hold in strong perspective that we would be the ones constructing our designs within the allocated five days, making ‘build-ability’ a key consideration. One day later, and after a heated counting of the votes cast by the students, Serenity, designed by Matt Robinson and Tom Reed, was announced as winner. Carousel followed closely in second place, a wrap-around structure of undulating frames with one frame to be fabricated by each student.

Over the following three weeks the design, materials orders, and constructional logistics for the coming week were furthered between Matt, Tom, and the supporting tutors, juggling between design intentions and constructional realities in a ping-pong rally of emails. July saw the return of the students to CAT for the build week, welcomed to the site by sunshine and dry weather. The first work on site was the labour-intensive stage of clearing the site, levelling, and setting out the slate pad foundations. We didn’t get the setting-out quite right the first time, but we learned lessons along the way.

Meanwhile, the main frames were being fabricated off-site by a separate team, with a third team dedicated to the production of the elegant timber screen that would face the most prominent elevation of the design.


Day three saw the elements rapidly come together on site, with the landscape team who had been manually slating the area called in for extra hands as the purlins, floor joists, and secondary posts were being measured, cut, and fitted. Floorboards were cut from reclaimed oak found on site and fixed to the joists with countersunk screws and plugged with wooden dowels, also used for the screen. In total, over 2,000 dowels were hand made by the team.



Day five saw the first and second section of the screen fitted to the main structure, and the first layer of timbers to the purlins. Hard as we all worked however, by the end of the fifth day there were still jobs left to do resulting in an ‘extension of time’ being granted for three further days of work in September. With reduced numbers, the returning students enthusiastically charged through the remaining tasks including fitting the final section of the screen and securing it to the biomass building with a slatted covered walkway. The construction of the horizontal slatted wrap-around to the end of the main structure dramatically changed the experience from within the space, with the final slats being fitted after dark under head-torch light.

Day eight saw the construction of the strongly-engineered bar area and following a brisk cleanup of the site, the students were able to sit down around the conversation pit and experience the space for the first time in its finished state.

All photos by Sebastian Lomas