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invisible studio teams with community members to sculpt parabolic shelter at westonbirt

led by invisible studio, designed and built by many hands


Among the forested grounds at England‘s Westonbirt Arboretum, a timber pavilion results from a collaborative effort between the architects at Invisible Studio and hundreds of people from nearby community groups. Others involved in the creation of the community shelter include timber structure specialists Xylotek as well as Forestry England volunteers and staff. With its organic, shingled canopy and technically complex structure, the project expresses the diverse abilities of the many participants by whom it was designed and built.


Thus, the work demonstrates ‘the mindful benefits of nature and co-creation,’ Invisible Studio founder Piers Taylor tells designboom. ‘The result is an inclusive and protective space that sits comfortably in its woodland setting.’

invisible studio westonbirtimage © Piers Taylor



recycled materials sourced from westonbirt


Building the Westonbirt community shelter, the team led by Invisible Studio made use of trees sourced directly from the arboretum itself. The collection of trees had been extracted as part of the area’s routine woodland management cycle, while for the structure’s metal elements, the group recycled the site’s disused aluminum signage. With this thoughtful materiality, the completed project stands with a small carbon footprint and, as the architects note, ‘shows what can be achieved using locally grown and sourced timber.’


From even the earliest stages of the design process, the collaborative group employed sketches, physical models, digital scanning, large scale mock-ups, and onsite fabrication. Each stage, from design to construction, involved members of the community. Taylor elaborates:Considering the varying skillsets of the participants, the shelter provided opportunities for individuals to join in on a range of traditional green timber carpentry techniques, including steam bending, laminating and shingle making to build the unusual structure.’

invisible studio westonbirtimage © Jim Stephenson | @clickclickjim



the hyperbolic rooftop


Presented by Invisible Studio, the Westonbirt community shelter is at once recognized by its hyperbolic paraboloid canopy. Described as an oak gridshell by the project’s timber structure specialist Xylotek, this rooftop shelters from the elements and peels up at its edges to frame important views toward the surrounding woodland. The architects note that the flexible space between this organic, curtain-like surface has been deliberately left open ‘to allow inclusive design and offer the groups who will use the shelter a space that is non-prescriptive.’


Piers Taylor describes the significance of the finished project: ‘The community that uses the shelter will feel a sense of ownership, while those participants involved in the build process have experienced the pride in making this project, with a postive outlook on what they can achieve next.’

invisible studio westonbirt
image © Jim Stephenson



Architect Piers Taylor continues: ‘The Community Shelter was conceived of a truly collaborative project, playing to the strengths of a wider team that have worked together on multiple innovative and award winning projects both at Westonbirt (with the Tree Management Centre) and also with projects at Hooke Park and elsewhere.


The shelter was won as a joint bid between Invisible Studio and Xylotek, and set up so that many others from a variety of community groups would work alongside the consultants on every aspect of the project, creating something ultimately far greater than a project from a single hand.’


The community shelter was funded through generous donations from a range of sources including individuals and grants, Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum charity and investment from Forestry England.

invisible studio westonbirt
image © Jim Stephenson invisible studio westonbirt
image © Jim Stephenson


image © Piers Taylor

invisible studio teams with community members to sculpt parabolic shelter at westonbirt
image © Jim Stephenson


image © Piers Taylor






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