One of the world’s foremost education centres for palaeontology, the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum rests on the ancient Pipestone Creek bonebed in Northern Alberta. The museum’s geometrically-complex exposed roof mimics a dinosaur’s skeleton – prefabricated modular timber panels are supported by angled glue-laminated beams, linked with custom computer-cut laminated plywood connection “nodes”.

Project Essentials

  • LocationWembley, AB
  • ClientTeeple Architects and Architecture Arndt Tkalcic Bengert
  • Size29,060 ft2 (2699 m2)
  • BudgetC$22 million
  • StatusComplete - 2015
  • Sustainable FeaturesTargets LEED Gold

Fast + Epp, in collaboration with the design-builders, Structure Craft, used Rhino and Grasshopper modelling software to simplify complex roof angles and connections. While early cost estimates for an all-wood option seemed prohibitive, engineers developed an innovative solution using layers of plywood and a CNC machine to “stamp” two-dimensional shapes into the wood. They were then laminated into unique three-dimensional forms.

Awards

  • The Institution of Structural Engineers, UK

    2016 Award for Education or Healthcare Structures

  • Prairie Design Awards

    2016 Award of Excellence

  • Prairie Wood Design Awards

    2015 Commercial/Institutional Wood Design

  • Prairie Wood Design Awards

    2015 Engineer Award

  • Prairie Wood Design Awards

    2015 Wood Advocate

The largest nodes were 1500mm tall and 2400mm wide, composed of approximately 180 CNC-cut plywood pieces. Given this complexity – and the groundbreaking nature of timber connections – engineers tested the strength and failure thresholds rigorously. Shop fabrication required extensive coordination to ensure accuracy; each individual element was required to fit seamlessly as a kit of parts when erected.

This project showcases the power of ingenuitive thinking and computer modelling; a complex engineering challenge was overcome and timber proved a sustainable and cost-effective building material.