The UK has outstanding architectural, engineering and design talent, and we see this expressed in the quality and variety of buildings which enter the Wood Awards. This year, our judges travelled from the hills of Glasgow to the beaches of Devon, and wherever we went, we observed a built environment embracing the low-carbon nature, beauty and versatility of wood.
Designers are pushing the boundaries of both what timber can do and how it can make you feel. This is found in the New Temple Complex, where an expressed timber frame creates a serene spiritual space, the already iconic Black & White Building, where a variety of timber species across the structure, façade and linings create an environment where people want to work, or Spruce House and Studio, which embraces the simple, natural beauty of timber in minimal yet meaningful design.
Form and function are deeply intertwined in timber design, and not only in new buildings. In Westminster Hall, we observe a long tradition of timber craftsmanship, carved into our national heritage. This hall has been restored with painstaking attention given to traditional materials and techniques. Timber’s history is also reflected in the boltless Boathouse, where millennia-old Japanese joinery techniques allow a structure without a single mechanical fixing.
Many others in our shortlist fully embrace modern technology. From the AI-generated engravings of Dragon Flat, to the precision engineered timber structure found in Benenden School, Centenary Hall and Music School, timber is an evolving material – crucial to the 21st century.
Of course, what makes timber most important to our future is its role in achieving reaching net-zero emissions. Timber provides a fantastic base to build low carbon, but, as with any material, design choice remains crucial to minimising carbon footprints. Our buildings must be resource and energy efficient, and designed for the long-term. That is why, for the first time, we gave out a Sustainability Award, to recognise a project with exceptionally considered, low-carbon design: The Black & White Building.
For similar reasons, this year, we have also chosen to give out an award for Research and Innovation, for the Field Station. It is important to acknowledge those who connect our built environment to the natural world, showcasing how modern architecture can positively contribute to woodland management. Making these relationships visible, from forest to finished project, benefits us all.
I would like to express gratitude to my fellow judges for dedicating their time and expertise to the Wood Awards and joining me on a tour across the country to visit all twenty shortlisted projects and select our winners. It is the considerable effort and commitment invested in evaluating these projects that truly validate these awards as a genuine recognition of excellence in wood design – which has no equivalent in the UK.
Finally, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the Wood Awards 2023 winners, highly commended projects, and all shortlisted projects. Each of these selected embodies the pinnacle of contemporary wood architecture. With this in mind, I eagerly anticipate what the upcoming year has in store in the world of design and innovation.
Jim Greaves, Chair of Buildings Panel