Gone are the days when timber meant a bit of cladding
It’s an impressive shortlist for this year’s Wood Awards – always one I enjoy helping to select for the very good reason that you get to see not only excellent architecture and craft skills, but also smaller projects by interesting practices that don’t crop up so much in other awards. It’s also the only one of its kind I know of that includes interiors and furniture as well as entire buildings – ‘excellence in British architecture and product design’ as they put it.
The 20-strong shortlist ranges far and wide. Long gone are the days when the use of timber in buildings came down to a bit of exterior cladding or interior panelling. As all readers of RIBAJ know, buildings of considerable size are now built with timber structure – whether framed or in CLT (cross-laminated timber) – before you get to the skin of the thing. This is a matter of warmth and texture as well as rapid erection and sustainability. It has been great to see this approach – championed especially by younger architects, and then enthusiastically adopted by the profession as a whole – move from the fringes to the mainstream.
The five categories are Commercial and Leisure, Education and Public Sector, Interiors, Private, and Small Projects. Our genial and efficient chair is architect Michael Morrison of Purcell. Furniture is separately judged, with Max Fraser as chair.
Look at the slideshow and you’ll see what a great shortlist we have this year. For instance there’s a motorway service station, Gloucester Services, by Glenn Howells Architects, who also contributes the Stihl Treetop Walkway at nearby Westonbirt Aboretum; you find not only the Manchester Maggie’s Centre by Foster and Partners, but also the Mellor Primary School by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects as published in RIBAJ – two buildings as different as could be in their aesthetic, which serves to demonstrate the versatility of timber.
I’m fascinated to see that Hodder and Partners has adopted an oak-clad CLT system for its new quad at St Clare’s Oxford, and delighted that Stanbrook Abbey by FCB Studios has made the cut – it’s the lead building study in our August issue, see it here. Conservation is not forgotten: the restoration of the medieval Harmondsworth Barn near Heathrow by Ptolemy Dean shows how durable timber buildings are – this one is dated to 1426/7.
Of course there are some very desirable private houses including Sanei Hopkins’ ‘Contour House’ in the Peak District which is entirely stone-clad, but timber beneath the skin. The Small Projects category includes something as small as a pair of doors by designer Sarah Kay in St James’s, Westminster, and the perforated CLT of Kingston Ancient Market Stalls by Tonkin Liu.
Thanks to all the judges and to the industry sponsors of this not-for-profit competition, now in its 45th year. As ever, we are delighted to present the shortlist to our UK and worldwide online audience: this is an award which deserves the widest airing.
Arnold Laver sponsors the Arnold Laver Gold Award.
Major Wood Awards Sponsors are American Hardwood Export Council, Carpenters' Company, TRADA and Wood for Good.
Other sponsors include American Softwoods, British Woodworking Federation, Furniture Makers' Company,
Forestry Commission, the Timber Trade Federation and 100% Design