Design and Construction of the Downland Gridshell

R Harris, J Romer, O Kelly, S Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (SciVal)


A gridshell is a structure that gains its strength and stiffness through its double curvature configuration. Its advantages are a minimum use of materials, structural efficiency and the creation of a large volume, as well as the potential for quick and cost-effective construction. However, few gridshells have been built due to a lack of knowledge and data. The process of creating the Downland Gridshell, as a specialist museum workshop completed in the spring of 2002, is a case study of successful collaboration and innovation in architecture, engineering and construction led by a multidisciplinary team of practitioners. This gridshell structure was composed of a double layer of mats comprising four layers of thin timber laths. These were harnessed together as a flat mat and then formed into a three-dimensional structure by a carefully orchestrated lowering of each supporting scaffolding prop, thereby harnessing gravity to pull the mat into shape. Many innovations are described in detail: team working, risk sharing, multidisciplinary design, structural modelling, the creation of new structural components, cladding, and construction processes including the sequence and techniques of gridshell forming. Advances made in this project have added to the knowledge of gridshell behaviour, construction and cost, thereby making the design and construction of future timber gridshells a more viable option.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-454
Number of pages28
JournalBuilding Research and Information
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


  • conception
  • timber
  • technique de construction en bois
  • alternative technology
  • timber engineering
  • gridshell
  • analyse structurelle dynamique
  • bois de construction
  • durabilit
  • structure voiles minces
  • procd de construction
  • dynamic structural analysis
  • construction process
  • sustainability
  • design
  • technologie alternative


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