How to build your wood pavilion like an architect

How often do architects build something with their own hands? We were curious to see how hard it is to build a wood pavilion, so we challenged ourselves to make things easier.

Our solution on optimising the cost without cutting back on material quality, structural integrity and aesthetics, was the use of joined wooden plank structure.

We added a detailed cost estimate at the end of this post, so you can easily understand what it takes to build it! 

*check out our YouTube video on this!

The high corner of the evergreen wood made pavilion showing the inside of the roof in an early autumn morning sun light.
Image belongs to Laura Ioana Voinescu.

The goal? Exercise your mind, soul and obviously your hands.

I believe that architects sometimes lose the sight of their real purpose: building a better society by inventing the way people interact in space. Therefore, this project is our take on the non-values promoted by our current culture. People usually come to like what they see more often, and as a result they become a product of the surrounding culture, being influenced by what the marketers and media feeds them.

The mainstream wood pavilion industry is no different and often delivers bulky, expensive and unsightly pavilions. For this reason we wanted to show a different way of building a wood structure.

The wood pavilion reflected in our small pond in the backyard. In the background the village's church is visible through the trees..
Image belongs to Laura Ioana Voinescu.
The inside of the gazebo roof, describing how this pavilion is made by joining wood planks.
Image belongs to Laura Ioana Voinescu.

Finding the perfect spot for your wood pavilion.

First of all, we needed a secluded built space to protect us from the fierce summer sun or the pouring rain, a place to contemplate the surroundings in our backyard. The building site is close to the small pond, in – between the apple trees and next to a future dug fire pit. In the future, we plan to add a system to enable closing the gazebo in some way – let’s call it the “closure” of the pavilion. 

Black and white site plan and ground floor plan drawings, showing details of the garden, vegetation and finishing of the gazebo.

Secondly, it was a challenge to us to innovate and lower costs in building this wood pavilion. That’s why we decided to use a weak piece of wooden plank to build an actual solid structural element. The 3 – layer – sandwich pillar design offers more control over the cuts and joints while the wooden boards that make the rafters fit perfectly inside the posts. At the same time, we trimmed a bit of the inside layer, emphasising the slenderness of the structure. Not having any screws or metal visible other than the lifted steel post base was something we aimed for, so we used dowel joints to keep the layers together. 

The process of building the gazebo explained through illustration. An exploded axonometric drawing showing how pieces come together, then the joined elements, and the final result illustrated.
Illustration of how the wood posts, the wood rafters and the wood beams are joined together.

In other words, our main goal was to test the process and adapt the structure for an easier procedure so it can be built without previous experience. We proved ourselves capable of walking through all project stages, having the physical and mental strength to spend a month in a remote village and build it ourselves. 

The Challenges.

Starting to search for timber, we soon realized that you can’t actually find two pieces with the same curvature, neither a wooden beam that is perfectly straight and stays under the budget, so working around these defects became vital. Also, taking time to cut the wood as planned actually saves time when putting the pieces together. Good planning beats hard work. 

T section wood pillars held by metal post bases right over gravel area. Next to the grey gravel the pavement is made of rough and varnished slate stone tiles.
Image belongs to Laura Ioana Voinescu.
The finished wood structure in an autumn morning light.
Image belongs to Laura Ioana Voinescu.

Using the dowelled tenon joint wooden planks instead of thick timber also leaves no metal screws or profiles on sight. The only structural piece that is not made of boards is the beam; yet making the pillars out of wooden planks meant we could trim the width of the inside plank layer so the rafters fitted perfectly in-between the exterior post layers while creating a nice structural detail. 

The beam made out of a wood plank goes through the evergreen wood posts. The rough slate stone tiles leave shadows over each other from differences in their level.
Image belongs to Laura Ioana Voinescu.
Rafters made out of evergreen wood planks are inserted into the wooden pillars.
Credits to Laura Ioana Voinescu.
Open evergreen wood lookout, with gravel and varnished slate stone pavement.
Image belongs to Laura Ioana Voinescu.

How much would this wood pavilion cost you?

This is what we needed in building this wood pavilion entirely:

The wood elements.

80 evergreen wood planks, 3030x109x21.5 mm

These 80 pieces will be used as follows:

17 pcs. to cover for faulty shaped pieces (53 eur).

40 planks – for the posts

10 planks – for the rafters

4 planks – for the side beams

4 planks – for the back shelves

5 planks – for making the needed wood strips out of them

= 252 eur, at 3.15 eur/piece

13 beech wood strips, ø10mm, 13 linear meters – for the dowels = 3.5 eur

7 OSB boards, 6x2500x1250 mm = 56 eur

1 KVH evergreen wood beam, 6500x160x60 mm = 35 eur


The roof.

8 roof overhanging metal sheets 2000x208x0.45 mm, 16 linear meters – cut for the roof border = 30 eur

20 lm woven polyethylene foil, 75gr/sqm,

1.5×50 lm hydro-insulation, used under the bitumen shingles

= 20 eur

11 bitumen shingles packs, 1000×333 mm 3sqm/pack, used to make the roof ridge as well = 60 eur

2000 self drilling flat truss screws, 10mm long for putting up the shingles on the roof = 20 eur


The metal parts.

10 zinc plated metal post bases, 81x100x200 mm = 30 eur

10 hex bolts, 80mm long for securing the post into the metal bases = 1.5 eur

40 wood screws, 50mm long, for securing posts in the metal base = 1 eur

1000 wood screws, 35mm long for putting together the pillars out of wood planks = 5 eur


The adhesive, varnish & pavement:

wood adhesive, 750g = 11.5 eur

colourless wood protection & colourless no gloss varnish, 1.5 l each = 18 eur

8 cement bags, 50kg each for the posts foundation, and the pavement base = 40 eur

1cbm of sand; 1cbm of gravel 5mm = 30 eur

1 bag of mortar, CM17 = 13 eur

slate stone, 10 sqm = 230 eur

slate stone varnish treatment, 2 liters = 20 eur


TOTAL: 876.5 EUR


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    The OVERLAP visualization studio founders at the 2018 Venice Bienalle. Monica Safta on the left, and Razvan Socol on the right.