Located near Highway 43 in Wembley, Alberta, the Philip
J. Currie Dinosaur Museum celebrates one of the world’s richest dinosaur-bone
beds, Pipestone Creek. The prehistoric remains and the region’s hilly topography
helped inform Toronto-based Teeple Architects’ design of the triangulated
structure and its exposed timber skeleton—a pivoted A-frame in which as many as
six structural members can converge at one joint.
Tying those members together requires elaborate custom connections, for which the firm initially planned to use steel. Then it determined that laminating CNC-milled Douglas fir plywood would be less complex, expensive, and difficult to craft, says principal Stephen Teeple. Wood, an abundant resource in western Canada, would also preserve the aesthetic of the building, which was constructed with beetle-kill pine timber.
Working with Vancouver, British Columbia–based engineering firm Fast + Epp, the architects used Rhinoceros to model and then deconstruct the nodes into manageable 2D pieces for milling. The largest nodes, at more than 59 inches tall and 94 inches wide, stack together approximately 180 plies. “With computer technology, it was easy to map out each layer and to create the form we were looking for,” Teeple says.
Using the plug-in Grasshopper, Fast + Epp virtually inserted stainless steel screws, as long as 47 inches, through the modeled nodes as rebar. Similar to a strut-and-tie system, the screws allow the nodes to handle both compression and tension loads, which the firm confirmed through physical mock-ups.
The 3D models also helped Delta, British Columbia–based StructureCraft Builders ensure quality during fabrication. Six-inch-long wooden dowels were inserted into holes drilled into each ply, positioning it within the node stack. Screws were then drilled where the models indicated. “It was a natural flow from the model to production,” Teeple says.
Juror Joyce Hwang was impressed with the complexity and final appearance of the nodes. “Not only are the architects making this joint work with laminated wood, but there’s also a beautiful effect,” she said. “Even though it’s a simple project, it was quite innovative in terms of thinking about a joint.”
Juror Steven Rainville also liked the firm's resourcefulness on the project, with the building's skeleton. “They’re using wood that is going to be thrown away and recombining it in new ways,” he said. “It’s showing the industry that you can change the paradigm.”
Design Firm: Teeple Architects, Toronto—Stephen Teeple, Martin Baron, Mark Baechler, Will Elsworthy, Lang Cheng, Carla Pareja, Gloria Perez
Size: 42,000 square feet