Traditional Japanese jointing and wooden trennels prompted the order for the UK’s only nail gun for wooden pins, and lighthearted Japanese detailing, on Ashworth Parkes' tiny but charming structure that is RIBA East Small Project of the Year
2023 RIBA East Awards
Small Project of the Year
The Boathouse, Cambridge
Ashworth Parkes Architects for private client
Contract value: Confidential
On the face of it this project is barely a building at all – simply a timber-framed canopy roof over a dock for a river boat. It is the care taken over the design and construction that lifts it to be a clear award winner, unanimously praised by the jury.
Ashworth Parkes Architects conceived the entire structure to be largely achievable as a self-build project, starting with the messy job of dredging out the cut by hand. A foundation was designed by the structural engineer that used retired scaffolding poles as low-tech micro-piles, painstakingly hammered metres down into the silt. On top of a timber grillage (incorporating scaffold-levelling jacks to allow compensation for any long-term movement), the client, family and friends helped erect the precut frame of British-grown larch. This was designed using traditional Japanese jointing and pegged together with wooden trennels. The Japanese detailing inspired a light-hearted curve to the rafters, clad with beautifully crafted standing-seam panels made of recycled copper. The use of timber pegs in the main frame led, in turn, to a desire to try to avoid metal fixings as far as possible. Hence the order from Germany of the UK’s only nail gun for wooden pins – firing hundreds of dried beech dowels to secure the boarding of the quay and roof.
The jury couldn’t help being charmed by this tiny structure and the architect’s and client’s infectious delight in creating it. The building has achieved the dual success of minimising negative impact on the environment while maximising the pleasure given to everyone who uses or passes it.
To find out more about the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com