Four students in the Design & Make program at the Architectural Association in London created The Cocoon, a wooden structure with an undulating shape suspended from trees at the fringe of a forest clearing in Hooke Park in Dorset, England.
The students created The Cocoon to serve as a quiet woodland retreat where people could sit among the trees and watch the sun set. They were inspired by the experience of walking through Hooke Park and wanted to explore the relationship between natural light, material, and occupational space. Their goal was to encourage visitors to explore and appreciate the beauty of the forest from a new perspective.
The design team wanted to maximize their use of materials sourced from Hooke Park. The Cocoon was made from four sheets of untreated plywood and one locally milled cedar tree. The untreated timber was highly flexible after it was milled into thin strips, which helped them bend into shape.
The students built a temporary frame and then crafted a façade with thin and flexible layers using a bandaging technique. They prefabricated the structure and then transported it to the site. After the shelter was stiff enough, they suspended it around three selected trees to make it appear to weave between them.
Visitors can climb a stepladder and enter through a hole at one end of the structure. Another hole at the opposite end serves as a window. Light enters the structure through small gaps in the walls.
The Architectural Association owns Hooke Park and hosts workshops and courses there. Students have built an assembly and prototyping workshop, a pod-shaped hideaway, and a shell-shaped structure in recent years.