Dragon Skin wood installation provides outdoor shelter on campus

A new canopy-shaped wood installation has arrived on UBC campus as an outdoor rain shelter.

Named Dragon Skin in reference to its scale-like shingles, the installation is the third iteration of a collaborative project between UBC’s SEEDS Sustainability Program, the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) and the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing (CAWP).

UBC Associate Professor Dr. AnnaLisa Meyboom led a group comprised of student and industry participants in a workshop to build the installation. The design for the structure was created beforehand and participants were guided through the process of construction, which involved robotic fabrication.

Through this hands-on process, students learned how to use highly accurate machines to cut materials and consider its architectural tolerance, assembly and staging on site.

“Those are really good questions for students to think about, but [you] only get to think about them when you actually build very complex structures,” said Meyboom, explaining the goal behind the workshop. “And normally only very advanced [graduate] students get to experience that.”

This is the third time that SEEDS and SALA have collaborated on the construction of on-campus wood installations. As a program created to advance UBC’s sustainability initiatives, SEEDS’s role in the project is to facilitate partnerships between campus personnel, faculty and students to ensure that the installation works with campus goals.

Wood has been used as the construction material of the installations as it is a sustainable material. With the capabilities of new technology, architects can also experiment with new ways of using wood. In this installation, robotics was used to create a double curved surface, which deviates from the straight and flat forms that wood is generally known for.

Reflecting on the first few iterations of the project, Meyboom noticed that while people looked at the installations, they weren’t engaging with it. Subsequent iterations, including this one, were carried out with the goal of increasing public interactions with the installation.

SEEDS talked to campus architects, faculty and students to figure out what kind of structures the public wanted in their campus space. They learned that there was a desire to have more rain cover, which they brought to the attention of the workshop designers to see how the project could meet those needs.

The result was Dragon Skin, a shingled canopy that keeps water gliding off its sides with enough space for people to take shelter underneath it.

Aside from functional purposes, SEEDS Program and Policy Planner David Gill explained the larger goal of the project was to increase collaboration between industry professionals and students.

“By giving these students and industry participants the exposure and skills and familiarity with [advanced digital design and fabrication], the idea is that they can then take it back to their project and their design so that this can hopefully have a much bigger impact beyond the scale of just this small installation.”