“It’s skin and bones,” says Project Manager Martin Baron of Teeple Architects in Toronto. “The metal roof is the skin and the wooden legs are the bones.” Teeple Architects are the visionaries behind the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Wembley, Alberta, 22 kilometers west of Grande Prairie. It’s an apt metaphor for the new museum next to one of the largest fossil finds in the country.
Interior View of the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum
The idea of making the supporting columns, or bones, part of the interior experience isn’t a new one but it does require special engineering so Teeple turned to Vancouver‘s internationally renowned StructureCraft Builders. The Richmond Olympic Oval is probably the most recognizable, a 43 foot span comprised of hundreds of pressure-treated 2 x 4’s. “We knew this was going to be exposed timber and we knew they were extremely good at it,” says Stephen Teeple about partnering with the British Columbia based company.
On-site Construction Details
“We’re a unique design and build company so we come on board fairly early in the process,” says StructureCraft founder and President Gerry Epp. Epp is a licensed Professional Engineer with a keen appreciation for aesthetics but he’s no pie-in-the-sky dreamer. Epp marries the fantastic with the practical making sure the physics fit the vision.
Teeple wanted a wooden building. No problem. The partners turned to Gluelam, an engineered wood product made out of recycled pine-beetle stock. But when the design called for multiple spars to intersect at a common point, the challenge became tougher. How do you design a joint that is not only pleasing to look at but is structurally sound as well?
Framework of the structure
“We’re not talking just sculpture here; we’re talking about big forces that have to carry wind and snow,” says Epp. True enough, the Wembley area gets about six feet of snow every winter.
The common choice would be steel but the architects wanted to keep everything organic. Epp wanted to keep the joint relatively small and light. The solution was a multi-faced laminated plywood node which brought everything together, carried the load and retained the organic look of wood, a custom solution worked out in StructureCraft’s workshop.
Computer modelling is conceptual, work-shopping it makes it real, says Epp. “If we’re not informed by actual construction problems, fabrication, erection and the rest,” he says, “then we’re not bringing our strengths to the project because we’re not informed by the real issues.”
Working out these real issues gives him a competitive advantage, knowing that when his parts go out in the field, they’re going to work. “We’re the ones who actually make it work on site and make it buildable,” he says.
Epp’s crews battled -30 degree temperatures this past winter erecting the skeleton. Now that the so-called bones are in place, the rest of the skin, the exterior cladding, is being applied. The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, nodes, bones and all, will open to the public in December 2014.
Artistic Concept/ Node Detail – Teeple Architects
Construction – StructureCraft Builders