From stunning geometric canopies to hand-carved conservatories and unusual furniture, wood is coveted for its beauty, sustainability, strength and tactile warmth.
“Wood in buildings was once mainly limited to veneers and cladding,” says Jim Greaves, a principal at Hopkins Architects.
Greaves has for 20 years been a judge for the Wood Awards, Britain’s competition promoting excellence in architecture and design using wood. In that time, wood has become highly prized, finding its place in our greener society.
The widespread adoption in recent years of cross-laminated timber or CLT, a structurally strong, engineered wood that is also environmentally sound, is a key driver behind a trend that’s resulting in ever more ambitious structures.
Wood is used now for schools, chapels, theatres and increasingly, homes, where generous expanses of light-reflecting, blond wood maximise daylight and create comforting interiors.
This year, 17 buildings and nine examples of furniture and product design have been shortlisted in the Wood Awards.
The winners — one per category plus an overall victor — will be announced at the end of next month.
Quirky highlights in the furniture and product category include The Beehave — a beehive resembling a log on legs, or perhaps an animal.
Its natural form and raw texture are designed to appeal to bees more than conventional, hut-shaped, manmade beehives. Created by Marlène Huissoud in collaboration with Benchmark Furniture, it was commissioned for a gallery at the Science Museum devoted to exploring the future of agriculture.
“Shaped like an animal or a log, it cleverly bridges the human and animal worlds,” comments furniture maker Sebastian Cox, another awards judge.
Charlotte Kingsnorth’s tables and stools, called Barking up the Wrong Log, are made of real logs and sliced wood that playfully create the illusion of faux-wood.
Kingsnorth charred the wood, then carved stylised nicks into it, revealing paler wood, for an artificial bark effect.
The nominated architecture projects include a new conservatory for a home in Islington, designed by Tsuruta Architects.
Its roof had to be lower than the height of the wall bordering the neighbouring house and rainwater needed to drain from it easily.
The solution was a roof made of Accoya, a modified wood, and glass featuring low, unobtrusive pitched elements that allow rainwater to run off.
Accoya is made from a fast-growing pine sourced from managed forests, which is subjected to acetylation, a process that makes it water resistant.
The conservatory roof forms a diagrid, comprising diagonally intersecting wooden beams enclosing double-glazed panes.
A particularly interesting aspect of this project is its unusual eco-design and construction, says Jim Greaves: “A complex 3D design was sent from a computer to a CNC-milling machine, which cut the components precisely. These were then fitted together without using screws or glue.”
The Rye Apartments
Another contender, The Rye Apartments in south London is a development comprising 10 stylish flats and duplexes.
Designed by Tikari Works, its superstructure and internal walls were constructed using CLT.
The Rye Apartments: exposed CLT lines the walls of this development which features 10 stylish flats and duplexes
Its interiors feature whitewashed ash floors, as well as walls lined with exposed CLT, their pale tone helping to maximise the daylight pouring in through big windows
Entirely wood-lined internal walls, a recurring theme of the shortlisted buildings, look set to be a major trend.
The ‘two and a half storey’ house
Designed by Bradley Van Der Straeten Architects, this home also features wood walls — this time of plywood, with a pleasingly unifying, homogeneous surface.
“Wood is now a mainstream building material,” says Jim Greaves.
“At a time when everybody is aware of climate change and the environmental performance of buildings, wood has found its place. Every student fresh out of college is motivated to deal with today’s pressing environmental issues.”