The Tortoise – Taking design and build to the next level

Opening Ceremony

Ramboll collaborated with SDC to provide a new covered seating space for Cambridge charity, Papworth Trust. Ramboll employees donated their time and expertise to carry out the design and construction – resulting in an innovative hinged plywood canopy, inspired by a tortoise shell, fixed to a gabion seating base.

 

Hinged Plywood Canopy
Hinged Plywood Canopy

Formed from 15mm thick CNC cut plywood and fixed together with 216 hinges, the canopy spans 5m. Each panel for the canopy was individually decorated on the interior by the clients from the Trust.

 

Background

Following the annual Chariots of Fire charity relay race in late 2013, where the Papworth Trust were the beneficiaries, the Cambridge office were asked if there were other ways in which they might be able to support the charity. A meeting on site led to the decision to build an interesting external structure, to better make use of the green space adjacent the front entrance.

Office lunchtime scheme design sessions spawned three distinctly different ideas, which were then pitched to the clients. The Tortoise, a seating area with a shell canopy, was chosen to be taken forward.

4_Panels
Panels

Design Development

The base and the canopy were developed by two separate teams within the Cambridge office. The base took on the form of two semi-circular seating areas, 3.5×5.5m on plan, constructed of rock gabion cages with a timber frame for fixing the canopy and seating slats, and for preventing uplift on the canopy.

 

 

Tortoise Base
Tortoise Base

 

Meanwhile, the canopy developed from two separate halves to a single shell with two openings. Working with the Computational Design team in London, the planar geometry of the panels was determined, and a SCIA analysis of the shell used to inform the plywood design. Drawing on experience in similar projects, such as the TRADA pavilion and the Fitzrovia chalkboard, detailed fabrication drawings were produced for CNC cutting, including all the holes for 216 bespoke hinge fixings.

Panel Cutting Drawing
Panel Cutting Drawing

Involvement of the centre users was a key driver throughout the process. The design had to fulfill a purpose as a usable, exterior space, and to ensure they were getting what they really wanted, the clients were given the choice of the three potential schemes at an early stage. TO make the structure their own, each panel for the canopy was individually decorated on the interior by the clients from the Trust.

Completed Panels
Completed Panels

Construction

Ramboll worked with local contractor SDC to acquire the materials for the project. Whilst Ramboll worked as quantity surveyors on the design, SDC used their contacts and financial resources to coordinate the orders and delivery of the materials.

Members of the Cambridge office, as well as friends and family, kindly donated their evenings and weekends to carry out the construction of the Tortoise. In addition, SDC provided two labourers for 3 days, and 12 CSR days were also utilised to complete the build. In total, the build took 340 hours of work, spread across four weeks.

Canopy Construction
Canopy Construction

The build was formally opened on the 26th June 2014. Papworth Trust is keen to replicate the build at their other facilities, saying “We couldn’t have imagined how fabulous it was going to be – and by  consulting with our centre, our service users really felt part of the project”.

 

Opening Ceremony
Opening Ceremony