Nov 15

AN EDUCATION IN WOOD from the Wood Awards 2012 shortlist

Wood Awards News Release

The Wood Awards, the flagship for wood in the best of British architecture, furniture and design, sees a vast range of different kinds of projects in its entries, but schools and educated-oriented buildings are consistently amongst the most numerous and interesting.

This year, the Wood Awards 30-strong shortlist includes seven building projects from various areas of academic life; a selection of which are featured here.

People spend as much as 90 per cent of their time inside buildings, and for children through to young adults, most of this time is spent either at home or in school. The design of indoor environments is of vital importance to human health and wood’s natural and elemental appeal not only meets aesthetic requirements, but environmental and performance requirements as well, such as durability and a low carbon footprint. Architects today are creating exciting and successful buildings using the unique properties of wood, with many taking advantage of the ability to design and build complex structures off site, ready for fast installation.

Schools, colleges and universities need to provide an inspirational space for teachers and pupils, and the education buildings shortlisted in the 2012 Wood Awards show excellence in design and craftsmanship using wood to create positive learning environments.

The Hive, Worcester by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Wood used: Austrian spruce cross laminated timber, European ash

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Designed to achieve BREEAM Excellent, the Hive is an integrated public/university library including county archives, a local history centre and the county’s archaeology service. Its mission is to promote lifelong learning, engender social inclusion and raise aspirations for the whole community. The roof of the Hive is arguably one of the most outstanding timber structures have been completed in the UK so far.

The iconic roof-form was designed using award-winning software developed from Bentley’s Generative Components. This allowed the structural and environmental parameters to be incorporated in such a way that the seven structurally independent pyramid shaped roofs could be constructed in solid laminated timber, whilst providing the optimum level of daylight and natural ventilation. The use of timber saved 2000 tonnes of CO2, compared to steel and concrete.

The span of the biggest roof exceeds 25m and required the development of a new unique system combining glue-laminated timber beams and cross laminated timber panels. The two main components are a product of two different manufacturers therefore production process had to be accurately programmed and organised.

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff by BFLS
Wood used: Western red cedar, birch ply, maple, ash

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Wood was chosen as the primary material for the concert hall both internally and externally, and the project overall achieved BREEAM excellent.

The external cladding of the Dora Stoukzer concert hall is timber primarily because it allows the building to engage with its woodland setting in the park at the northern end of the site in a sympathetic way, and secondly, because the timber will subtly change over time, and has been coordinated to allow the building to age gracefully.

Wood has long been associated with excellence in architectural acoustics, and the technical benefits are explained by acousticians, who advise on the density of the grain, the porosity of the finish, and how that affects the absorption, reflection and colouration of sound. Aesthetically however, natural timber provides an excellent setting for the performance of music that musicians understand and feel comfortable in; the happier they are, the better the performance. A clarity of sound and a warmth from the reverberance is created by the volume of the space and the detailing of the timber. This acoustic ‘warmth’ is visually mirrored by the honey coloured timber.

The warmth of the natural timber which has been used both externally and internally as the cladding and lining of the concert hall has been met with universal acclaim by both the visiting public and the performers. The beauty of the timber, in its woodland setting seems entirely appropriate and elegant.

HCA Hub, Hereford College of Arts, Herefordshire by Hewitt Studios LLP
Wood species: Swiss spruce, Western red cedar, Scandinavian marine plywood, English ash, English oak

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The project delivers much-needed cafe and exhibition space for the Hereford College of Arts. The project presents a bold new face for the campus; a shared ‘contact-vehicle’ in which the College staff and students can come together to display and celebrate their collective outputs.

The College demanded an innovative, design-led solution, requiring an open-plan, flexible space, but they encouraged the design team to explore new ways of creating an inspiring building that would act as a fitting backdrop to the artistic endeavours of the College and its students. The unique ‘twisted-trestle’ structure is made from a combination of glu-laminated timber beams / columns, cross-laminated timber panels and slender steel props. Support to the entrance elevation is as light as possible, allowing clear views of the building’s inviting interior, whilst substantial timbers on the opposite side firmly root the building to the ground. Their tree-like form is intended to invoke comparisons with Herefordshire’s native orchards.

Externally, the building is clad in a combination of anodised aluminium, untreated western red cedar and stained plywood panels. The timber connects the building to its surroundings (the remnants of a parkland setting), whilst the visible strips of aluminium reflect the ever-changing sky.

Hooke Park Assembly Workshop, Dorset by Architectural Association Design & Make / Mitchell Taylor Workshop
Wood used: English larch, English roundwoood (structural), English Western red cedar

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The ‘Big Shed’ is a 500sqm Assembly Workshop designed by students of the AA’s new Design & Make master’s course. The building provides a new sheltered workspace for its build activities, and is now being used for full-scale prototyping, testing, pre-assembly and other research into architectural systems. Over the coming decade, its core output will be a series of student-designed-and-built campus buildings.

The building structure has pioneered the use of high-capacity screwed connections within large round-wood trusses. Through an experimental testing collaboration with Bath University, the structural members are used ‘in-the-round’ in complex structures without relying on major engineering processing; demonstrating maximised use of local resources with minimal reliance on industrialised production.

The construction was carried out by a collaborative team of students both from Design & Make and volunteers with experienced timber framers to enable the academic agenda of “designing through making” – enabling a collaborative working method whereby a design idea is tested against the material and constructional realities of timber.

The project facilitates the construction of a series of new experimental timber building structures at AA Hooke Park campus.

University of Exeter Forum, Devon by Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Wood used: English and Welsh oak, German spruce glulam

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The Forum is a new hub for students at Exeter University. Rated BREEAM Excellent, it provides a new entrance for the University’s Streatham campus and houses new student facilities and teaching accommodation beneath a soaring timber gridshell roof; the largest in the UK at over 3200m2.

The Forum links essential facilities such as the Great Hall, library, lecture theatres and the Student Guild along a new galleried, indoor street, lined with cafes, a shop and a bank. A student services centre takes a prominent position within the new building, broadening and enhancing the range and availability of pastoral services that the University offers. A newly built state-of-the-art 400 seat auditorium, specially commissioned public art, landscaped open spaces and refurbished library complete the Forum, making it the heart of the social and academic life of the University.

The undulating timber gridshell roof was designed in conjunction with engineering experts, Buro Happold. Constructed as a triangulated nodal gridshell structure using glued laminated spruce beams connected with steel nodes, the roof connects the functions of the building with each other and the landscape and the perimeter profile uses the malleable qualities of green oak to define an elegant curved edge with thin oak timber slats installed to the triangular soffits between the structural beams.

The Wood Awards judges have visited all the shortlisted project, and the winners for 2012 – including the coveted Gold Award winner – will be announced on 27th November at Carpenters’ Hall in London.

For more information on the 2012 Shortlist and the Wood Awards, visit or follow @woodawards.

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