Rolling in the Deep

Grow a Friendly Space

Charlie Whinney, a graduate from the University of Falmouth 3d Design course, has created a unique piece of garden sculpture. He has mastered the art of steam bending wood and in doing so is able to create a variety of stunning sculptures, such as this Rolling Summerhouse. Using locally sourced wood and constructed without glues and sealants, this is an eco-friendly modern design approach utilising traditional techniques orginally used for making cartwheels and boats.

The Rolling Summerhouse is large enough to sit inside and read a book, or even roll around a garden like a giant tumbleweed, allowing the user to chase the sun round. As the wood is so light it will not mark decking or damage lawns. The modern yet timeless style would work well in any contemporary garden design, although obviously it may be a little large for small urban gardens.

Charlie says the following about the structures:

What was your inspiration for the design?

Microscopic life forms such as plankton.

Is the Rolling Summer House designed for someone to live in or as an outdoor seating area?

An outdoor seating/playing structure. I have tiny children run almost upside down inside the cladding before tumbling out onto the grass.

How big is the Rolling Summer House?

Any size up to about 8 meters (26ft 3”) for this design; this one is 3 meters (9ft 10”), but its brother which we made the year before was 4 meters (13ft 2”).

Please describe the construction process?

It is a unique ‘double layered gridshell’’; every component was steam-bent into the correct curve and then bolted together using 160mm x 10mm (6.3” x 0.4”) Coach screws for the main structure and 6mm (0.25”) coach bolts for the cladding.

How much wood was used in the design?

About 2 cubic feet (0.06m3) of timber, it is all Oak and Ash that was locally sources and steam-bent ‘green’ (fresh) into shape.

Is steam bent wood more sustainable than traditional lumber?

Yes it is! Depending on where you live, traditional lumber is almost always kiln dried and transported a long way, which produces a lot of carbon emissions. Because of the huge advantages of working directly with the local sawmill to get the correct cuts of timber for steam bending, and using it green (fresh), steam bent wood is almost always locally sourced (so little transport) and used green (so no fuel for kilning) and the actual steaming process can often be fuelled by burning wood waste. The steaming process seasons the wood as well as softens it, so it does that same job as kilning.

Would you consider making a cabin from steam bent wood?

Yes, I am actually hoping to be doing that next year up the Lake District in Cumbria. It will be as much a work of art as a piece of architecture.

family garden design
family garden design