Chalk Wall Pavilion

In 2011, three tutors from courses in Architecture and Interior Architecture & Urban Studies (Tony Roberts, Kate Cheyne, Glenn Longden-Thurgood) together with their students and with apprentices from Mears Group undertook to design and build a bespoke pavilion in order to display student work but also to demonstrate the teaching of alternative technologies through making.


Undertaken in the spirit of ‘reduce, re-use, and recycle’, the pavilion was a series of four individual walls to hold the student’s drawings: a 22 ton rammed chalk wall, a stacked ply wall, a straw bale wall and a series of ply fins. They supported a lightweight roof floating above. The ambition was to design and build the pavilion from alternative technologies using discarded and unwanted materials. This meant that the design remained experimental, being continually adapted in response to what could be sourced or was offered.


Thanks for the support from The Mears Group PLC, Tom Bedford of BBP Consulting Engineers Ltd, Exhibit Printing Ltd, Mark Jones (Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd), Simon Munson (Urban Green), BBM Sustainable Design, Rowland Keable of In Situ Rammed Earth Co Ltd, Chug of Strawbale Houses, Tim Lane, Health and Safety Officer, Mabey Formwork Hire Services and Triad Timber Components.

Images and Plans

Technical Description

The main elements of the pavilion were:

1]: A 22 ton rammed chalk wall was cast using chalk excavated from a University of Brighton building site in Falmer. The wall is made solely of chalk, straight from the ground, with the exception of a foundation and capping beam that have lime added for stability. A planning application was made and the rammed chalk wall was retained after the pavilion was struck.

2]: the stacked timber was originally intended to be fabricated from used shuttering ply offered to us by McAlpine who were building around the corner. Unfortunately, this precious material was retained for use on another of their sites. Instead the wall was constructed from new shuttering ply which we reused ourselves. After the Brighton show it was taken to London for the Interior Architecture show and then brought back to Brighton to be installed in the interiors studios. This wall ultimately consisted of ply boxes to reduce the amount of material used and to maximise the amount of storage volume fro later use.

3]: the straw bale wall was made from stacked straw bales sourced from a local farmer. For extra stability the wall was enveloped in bands of softwood frames that were tied down to a ply base, weighted down with unwanted, old paving slabs kept from another University build. These timber frames held the bales together and provided an armature for the display of drawings. A continuous timber beam bolted above supported the roof. The bales were donated to a pair of local horses following the show.

4]: the ply fins which “floated” amongst the more robust walls were also held down to the base to prevent the roof flying off in high winds. These walls were standard stud frame with ply both sides.


As a base for the pavilion, and to counter the unevenness of the ground below, we used a sub-floor of donated timber pallets. They were levelled off with a matrix of battens and counter battens. In the spirit of “reduce, reuse, recycle”, we originally planned to fix recycled shuttering ply to the floor, however the final floor consisted of 12mm ply which was reused throughout the school over the next year.


On top of all the walls were timber “I-beam” joists. Between them spanned smaller and more frequent CLS joists which provided the support for a simple draped polythene membrane, the drapes allowing drainage off the roof. The I-beams were rain-damaged stock provided free by a local timber company. Both beams and CLS were also reused in later projects.


School of Architecture and Design
Katrin Bohn