Page C1.2 . 02 November 2011                     
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    New Wood Work


    Stories abound of the rape of the forests carried forward in Indonesia and elsewhere, and few would defend such practices as having anything to do with an ecological approach to building. Yet wood, properly managed and harvested, is living a new life in the early 21st century as a material of predilection in architecture. Because a managed forest can be renewed, wood that is not transported over too great a distance is surely one of the most ecologically sound building materials available.

    Organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have established standards (LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) that can serve to approve lumber for environmentally sustainable construction. The USGBC works with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), "an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world's forests."

    Established in 1993 as a response to concerns over global deforestation, FSC is widely regarded as one of the most important initiatives of the last two decades to promote responsible forest management worldwide. As of December 2008, 107 million hectares (264 million acres) of forest in 78 countries were certified to the FSC's "Principles and Criteria."

    Because its use has been so widespread over time, and by no means only in inventive architecture, wood carries with it something of a reputation. Why have a wooden house when concrete and aluminum seem so much more modern and solid? We can see, however, an entirely new generation of buildings, surely inspired in part by traditions, but also by the "green" building vogue.

    As strict modernism or the even more arid minimalism slip out of fashion, so too many architects and clients have sought the warmth that wood conveys, its natural feeling. Being an "old" building material, wood can nonetheless be fashioned using the most contemporary CNC (computer numerical control) milling techniques, making complex forms or unique pieces economically feasible.

    Then, too, many contemporary architects use wood for specific purposes and areas of their buildings. A building may be clad in wood but built of concrete or steel. An overview of what is being done in different styles and techniques, from as many locations as possible, looking mainly at work of the past few years, proves that wood is a versatile and effective contemporary building material.

    Although they named their firm Beton — French for concrete — Marta Rowinska and Lech Rowinski have taken an obvious pleasure in erecting a small (60-square-meter, or 650-square-foot) wooden chapel in Tarnów on Poland's Vistula River (2007-2010). The architects sought to achieve "a certain quality of space with the use of rudimentary technical simplicity."

    Low-lying and designed in an H form, the RW House in Búzios, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2006-2009) is lifted 50 centimeters (20 inches) off its beach site. Despite the obvious luxury of a residence of 4,900 square meters (52,700 square feet), the architects, Bernardes + Jacobsen, have made use of laminated, untreated eucalyptus wood from reforested areas in the structure. Natural ventilation also emphasizes the proximity of the house to its setting and reduces energy consumption.

    An air of practicality or even frugality in wood appeals to many clients and a good number of architects. Shin Ohori of Tokyo's General Design was approached by a client who really wanted nothing more than a good place to set up a tent. The result of this unusual collaboration was a "residence" called Mountain Research in Minamisaku, Nagano, Japan (2007-2008). A larch deck and spaces for cooking, storage, and bathroom facilities shelter a space for a two-meter (6.7-foot) dome tent.

    At just 24 square meters (260 square feet) and $4,500, the Lilypad in Point Roberts, Washington (2008-2009), by architectural photographer Nic Lehoux with his colleague Jacqueline Darjes, is not an ambitious project in terms of size or price. Cedar decks, reclaimed old Douglas fir for the windows, and glulam beams are the essential elements of the house, which is lifted off the ground on sonotubes, a product used to make forms for concrete.

    German architects Auer + Weber + Assoziierte employed a trellis-like larch external facade on their Central Facilities building on the Martinsried Campus of Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (2004-2009). Wood is not the main structural material, but is nonetheless key to the design.

    The architect Enrique Browne chose laminated wood as the material for his small, elegant pedestrian bridge in Zapallar, Chile (2008). Though metal netting and LED lights are also part of the scheme, the image of a boat was in the Browne's mind when he designed the bridge. Wood clearly can be fashioned using less elaborate means than equivalent quantities of steel or other modern materials.

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Philip Jodidio studied art history and economics at Harvard, and was editor-in-chief of the French art journal Connaissance des Arts for over 20 years. His books include Taschen's Architecture Now! series, Building a New Millennium, and monographs on Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano, Santiago Calatrava, Richard Meier, and Zaha Hadid.

    This article is excerpted from Wood Architecture Now! by Philip Jodidio, copyright © 2011, with permission of the publisher, Taschen.



    ArchWeek Image

    A series of simple wood trusses serves as the primary structure for a 60-square-meter (645-square-foot) church in Tarnów, Poland, designed by Beton.
    Photo: Beton Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    General Design created the Mountain Research "residence" in Minamisaku, Japan, which supports large dome tents.
    Photo: Daici Ano Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Architectural photographer Nic Lehoux designed the 24-square-meter (260-square-foot) Lilypad house in Point Roberts, Washington, with Jacqueline Darjes, who manages his photography firm.
    Photo: Nic Lehoux Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    A two-layer trellis shades the facade of the Central Facilities building, designed by Auer + Weber + Assoziierte for the Martinsried Campus of Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Germany. The building contains a cafeteria, child care centers, and administrative space.
    Photo: Roland Halbe Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Enrique Browne designed a wood-and-metal pedestrian bridge that spans the Route F-30-E highway in Zapallar, Chile.
    Photo: Tomás Eleodoro Rodríguez Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Designed by Shigeru Ban in collaboration with KACI International Inc., the translucent central roof membrane of the Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Clubhouse in Yeoju, South Korea, is supported by tapered wood columns that transition into an undulating hexagonal mesh of composite wood members.
    Photo: Jong Oh Kim Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The minimalist Tree Trunk House in Hilversum, the Netherlands, designed by Piet Hein Eek, features a modern take on the cord-wood facade.
    Photo: Thomas Mayer Archive/ VG Bild-Kunst Bonn Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Wood Architecture Now! by Philip Jodidio. Pictured: the RW House in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, designed by Bernardes + Jacobsen.
    Image: Taschen Extra Large Image


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