Wood in architecture
Crawley || United Kingdom
Worth Abbey, nestled in the English South Downs, is a complex of buildings housing 25 resident monks, a school, parish activities and a guest house. Francis Pollen designed the church which was inaugurated in 1974. The Abbey has now undergone a lengthy renovation including restyling of the radial-plan central prayer space where the original seating for the congregation has been replaced by fixed bespoke furniture designed by Heatherwick Studio. Designer Thomas Heatherwick chose to use solid American black walnut throughout: pews, choir stalls, lecterns, credence tables, server seats and confessionals.
The two colours of this timber, with its darker heartwood and creamy sapwood, lend warmth to the interior and create colour variety that enhances the sophisticated design of these pieces. Solid wood is prone to alteration so the pews were designed on a metal frame which in no way detracts from the final look but provides resistance to daily use. The frame connects the kneelers to their seats and makes each pew a standalone piece. One modern reference to inlay technique playing on the colour of different woods was to laminate a 0.6 mm strip of ash into the layers of black walnut. Almost imperceptible from a distance, this inlay on closer inspection produces an extraordinary colour effect and an elegant play of line across the furniture surfaces. This is particularly marked on the central monk’s seat where the angle of the laminating meets the curve of the back, producing a wave in the ash line and focusing attention on the officiant.
Architects: Heatherwick Studio
Photography: © Edmund Summer