Feb 22

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

By Rupert Scott, Membership & Marketing Manager, TRADA

The late, great Austrian-born architect Harry Seidler – widely credited with introducing the principles of Bauhaus into his adopted home country of Australia – was once quoted as saying: “Good design doesn’t date”.

The same can be said of good building materials – and when it comes to sustainable architecture and design, it doesn’t get much better than timber. Wood’s star continues to shine in the design community, as evidenced by the number of exemplar projects in the recent Wood Awards competition.

Pick of the bunch – as judged by a panel of leading lights in architecture and design – was a new pool complex at London’s prestigious Hurlingham Club. Designed by David Morley Architects, the new pool complex uses timber to excellent effect with the five undulating vaults of the roof formed by a series of prefabricated timber cassettes that create an elegant monocoque structure, uninterrupted by beams or joists.

Opening the awards ceremony at the Carpenters’ Hall in London, Loyd Grossman, chairman of the Heritage Alliance and a freeman of the Carpenters’ Company, said wood was important to the UK’s history and culture, and its sustainable future. “Wood is the most truly beautiful and sustainable material,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Canadian High Commissioner Gordon Campbell who had a clear, concise message for the 200-strong audience: “Wood is good.” (a phrase he had the audience repeat three times, just in case they needed persuading). Wood’s design flexibility made it the building material for the future, and the Wood Awards showed exactly what timber could do, said Mr Campbell.

Wood is unlike any other building material. Its aesthetics are difficult to match, it’s flexible, and, of course highly sustainable. That’s why designers seem to love it. Award-winning architects AL_A and engineering firm Arup recently transformed the V&A Museum’s Grand Entrance on Cromwell Road with the installation of a giant timber wave cascading down the steps. Built from oil-treated American red oak, Timber Wave was a three-dimensional latticework spiral – 12 metres in diameter – that employs construction techniques and materials normally used in furniture making, to create a majestic three – storey – high structure. This would only be possible in wood.

Innovative timber structures are a perfect reflection of the design sensibilities afforded by timber: TRADA’s Giraffe pavilion is another excellent example. Comprising a timber shell made of polygonal ply panels, faceted to create an arched and curved enclosure, this eye-catching structure was created to fire the imagination and show what was possible in timber.

But it’s not all about high-brow architectural projects: whether as facade, window or structure of a house – the building material wood has proven itself for centuries. Wood is durable and robust, varied and used individually – as well as ticking all the right green boxes. Put simply: wood is the building material of the past, present and future.

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