The judges of the Wood Awards 2020 selected six structures and three products that represent the best of British architecture and product design in wood. Established in 1971, the Wood Awards is the UK’s premier competition for excellence in wood design. The competition is free to enter.
The Wood Awards was one of the few design competitions to go ahead despite COVID-19. The independent panel of judges always visits all the shortlisted projects in person, making this a uniquely rigorous competition. For 2020, the usual judging process had to be adapted, but the competition persevered, and the judges still managed to see each project.
The Gold Award, the winner of winners, was given to the Private category winner, which was London-based The Rye Apartments by Tikari Works. The development of ten sustainable apartments sits on a prominent corner site. A mix of one, two, and three-bedroom units are set in two blocks that respond independently to the changing scale across the site. The user’s quality of life is at the heart of the design. The project was driven by two key considerations; how to resist standardised or default positions within housing design, and how to minimise the materials, embodied carbon and cost. CLT was used for the superstructure and all the internal walls and staircases.
The Commercial & Leisure winner was Frindsbury Manor Barn, a conservation project by Dolmen Conservation Ltd. This Grade 1 listed medieval barn, originally built in 1403, was damaged by fire in 2003. At 210 feet long it is the longest barn in the UK. A third of the barn was re-built in locally sourced green oak. Large quantities of curved timber were selected for braces and tie beams. In total, 1400 f3 of oak was used. The judges admired the attention to detail and the scale of the conservation project.
Swimming Pool Hall at King’s College School, Wimbledon by David Morley Architects was selected as the Education & Public Sector winner. Judge Kirsten Haggart said, “The different timber elements all have the same white-washed tone and coordinate perfectly with the reinforced concrete columns, creating a beautiful place which has an intimacy that most pools lack.” The building’s design has strong visual connections between indoors and outdoors to encourage physical activity among students. Curved glulam beams support CLT roof panels with integral timber acoustic linings.
The Interiors winner was Brockeridge Stair, entered by Future Joinery Systems Ltd. The prototype staircase is part of a UK government funded R&D project to enable digital fabrication directly from BIM modelling environments. The stair rises three floors and is cantilevered from flush mounted stringers. The parts were CNC machined and assembled onsite using standard tools. The new platform developed during research allows designs to be defined parametrically, enabling the user to configure bespoke objects to specific requirements. Items can be locally fabricated through a distributed manufacturing network model open to any CNC enabled workshop.
The Small Project winner was Wooden Roof by Tsuruta Architects. One solid piece of wood, enclosed by four seasons glazing units, forms the entire structure and acts the building’s envelope, structure, insulation and cladding. The diagrid frame is a combination of falls that are either short and steep or long and shallow. The pieces were all CNC fabricated and were light enough to be assembled manually onsite. The beam cross junctions were fixed without any glue or mechanical fixings.
This Structural Award winner was the National Automotive Innovation Centre, chosen from all the shortlisted buildings. Structural judge Nathan Wheatley commented, “We are looking for a scheme that has challenged the engineer, where the concept has been delivered in spite of that challenge and where the resultant structure is in some way integral to the success (and architecture) of the building.” The Centre is the largest research and development centre of its kind in Europe. The walls were assembled using a pioneering system of prefabricated, self-spanning timber and CLT mega-panels that could be erected quickly. As one of the largest timber roofs in the world, the glulam CLT lattice structure unifies the many activities housed beneath a single umbrella. Primary and secondary joists are arranged on a diagrid, spanning onto supporting beams on a 15m grid.
The Furniture & Product judges selected two winners within the Bespoke category; Duo by Studio Woodgate and The Beehave by Marlene Huissoud. Both projects were produced by Benchmark Furniture. Duo is a pair of deceptively delicate sofas designed for Alex Beard CBE, Chief Executive of The Royal Opera House. The light rectangular arms have a curved chamfer detail with cleverly hidden metal rods to ensure the sofa is robust. A subtle 2 millimetre radius runs around the edge of the wood throughout the piece. The two end frames for the arms were made up from solid timber and shaped on a 5-axis CNC machine. The seat and back are made from a solid timber frame and sit on a nook cut into the end frames secured by a metal dowel. The Beehave was commissioned by Sir Ian Blatchford for a new permanent collection at the Science Museum. Rather than a traditional, house-like beehive, Marlène created something more organic. The piece was hand carved and the red oak was then blackened using a scorching technique. It took 100 hours to add the tactile engraving details to the surface using a pyrograph.
Tenon Table by Daniel Schofield for L.Ercolani was the Production winner. The judges admired the design and were particularly impressed by how well balanced the tables are. A pragmatic approach was taken to the design of the table. The oversized wedged tenon has become a focal point which highlights the construction of the piece and the quality of craftsmanship. A combination of wood turning, CNC machinery and hand jointing were used.
Plans for the Wood Awards 2021 will be announced in the spring.