The sheer versatility of wood as a building material meant that selecting a winner in the WAN Wood in Architecture Award was never going to be an easy task. It’s a material that has useful application in any sector from commercial to ecclesiastical.
As one of the judges, Pekka Heikkenen stated: "I think that the selection here is good as there’s many types of buildings that we keep building all the time such as office buildings or a sports hall. Then there’s a few surprises such as a public toilet..." The judges not only had to consider the merits of wood in relation to a projects’ particular sector but whether the envelope was pushed with regards progression, in some cases preservation and of course craftsmanship.
The jury panel that had to see the wood for the trees included: Professor Richard Harris from the University of Bath; Professor Pekka Heikkinen of Allto University; Mårten Leringe, CEO of Berg | CF Møller; and Carsten Primdahl, Founding Partner of CEBRA Architecture.
Trondheim in Norway is home to NINA (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research), designed by PIR II and finished around May 2013. It is now the winner of the inaugural WAN Wood in Architecture Award. PIR II proposed a simple conceptual approach for differentiating between several layers of the Institute's activities. The project focused on the use of natural wooden materials, both as load-bearing structures and as cladding.
The concrete base of the project is shaped on the metaphor of a glacier. It holds a semi-public meeting centre, laboratories, technical spaces and storage areas. On top of the glacier stands a wooden box which is an office block of four storeys. In between is the ground floor with the main entrance, library and a shared cafeteria. In total the building is six storeys with an approximate gross area of 8,700 sq m.
The scheme progressed rapidly onto a diverse shortlist, with Mårten Leringe stating that it had ‘a holistic approach to sustainability that incorporates wood not only as an add-on but as a mean to create wholeness’. Pekka Heikkinen concurred, believing that ‘sustainability has been taken seriously here’. He added, ‘structurally it seems to be fine and I think architecturally it opens and moves [wood] in new directions’.
Reflecting on the shortlist, Richard Harris thought the selection ‘represents a new starting point for these types of buildings to move on from. In all of them, there’s great attention to detail which is essential in timber building to ensure that they continue to be beautiful and serviceable through their life.'
We would like to offer our heartiest congratulations to PIR II and our sincere thanks to all those that entered the WAN Wood in Architecture Award.
WAN AWARDS Co-ordinator