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It’s more than an annual pleasure, the Wood Awards. It’s the encouraging sense that a project is succeeding in its aims. This is a material that is now close to the heart of one particular profession – architecture – while remaining central to the art, craft and science of furniture making in both one-off pieces and those made for production.

In other words, the story here celebrates the use of a material that is handled increasingly instinctively by designers of all persuasions (see the special award and varied long list). That’s not to say that everybody is equally proficient: of course not, there is much learning to be done, and the purpose of the Wood Awards, supported by our valued sponsors, is always to lead by example by showing the best. I’d say that industry expert (and now chairman of judges again) Michael Buckley’s excellent idea of 12 years ago is paying dividends. 

What comes through particularly strongly this year is the variety of projects that now use wood in all its aspects. Even among the examples that didn’t make it through a very strong field, it was notable that architects in particular are delighting in exploiting the material for its structural, aesthetic and of course sustainable characteristics – in places such as tough retail, commercial and public environments, say, when in the past you wouldn’t have expected to see it. It’s always good to see designers being enthused by the appropriate use of their material, and their growing skill in handling it, also in beautiful private projects and innovative small ones.

The Arnold Laver Gold Award this year sums everything up, really. It is an exemplary little low-budget rural museum by an architect to note for the future. A mix of new-build and restoration, of ancient techniques co-existing happily with the high technology of today, it adroitly uses a mixed palette of materials that suits its context admirably – and is designed in such a way as to waste practically nothing. Wood is the original building material. Using it is like meeting an old friend.

Hugh Pearman, Editor, The RIBA Journal


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