PT Woodworkers create hospital pavilion

Posted 10/9/19

The Port Townsend School of Woodworking recently completed work, for now, on a project for the Seattle Children’s Hospital, intended to provide solace for families who need it.

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PT Woodworkers create hospital pavilion

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The Port Townsend School of Woodworking recently completed work, for now, on a project for the Seattle Children’s Hospital, intended to provide solace for families who need it.

Richard Berg, chair of the board for the school, explained that a couple, Summer and Andrew Shute, lost their daughter to illness after an extended period of treatment at Children’s Hospital, and Summer recalled how there were times when she needed to be outside of the hospital, to process her grief, but still close by and sheltered from the weather. The Shutes raised the money to create this space, and the hospital found room on its campus for an open-air shelter, which would double as a memorial to the Shutes’ daughter.

“When they were looking for someone to actually do the work, they made contact with Jim Tolpin, one of the co-founders of the school,” Berg said.

The result was that Terrapin Architecture, Berg’s Port Townsend-based firm, was hired to design the 15-foot-tall, 24-foot-wide octagonal shelter in January of this year, and continued revising the design even as the school’s students and teachers worked on it.

Instructor Steve Eastwood was one of four instructors to work on the pavilion, guiding a class of what started out as eight timber framing students through three weeks of work, from the third week of July through mid-August.

“By the last week, there were only five students working on it,” Eastwood said, noting that a sixth student had been active up until that last week. “By that time, we’d all gotten about half of the work done, so us instructors worked from mid-August through mid-September to wrap it up.”

Although permit applications for the structure had already been submitted in June, the city of Seattle is still reviewing them, so Berg doesn’t expect the shelter to be erected until the spring of 2020 at the earliest.

“You wouldn’t want to put it up during the winter months,” Berg said of Seattle.

The Port Townsend School of Woodworking has taught timber framing classes for at least three years, but what Berg appreciated about the pavilion project was that it broke from the traditionally squared-off and simpler structures that students had previously worked on.

“The students were able to participate in fabricating a truly unique structure,” Berg said. “It allowed them a broader glimpse of what’s possible with woodworking, on something that was almost more of a piece of art than a building.”

Although the shelter’s design was revised in the midst of its construction, Berg emphasized those changes were “mostly refinements” as opposed to significant overhauls.

“Having beveled columns not only made it more artistic, but actually turned out to be easier to produce,” Berg said. “One of the joys of this school is that, as my students build, I’m still learning too.”

Berg also looks forward to seeing the contrast between the pavilion’s Douglas fir and Alaskan yellow cedar deepen over time, as the colors of both woods become richer with age.

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