WAN Wood in Architecture 2015 Award – Six diverse projects shortlisted

Lydia O’Callaghan
Monday 17 Aug 2015

The WAN Wood in Architecture 2015 Award is a specialist category that celebrates advances in wood design, showcasing the elegant, natural and versatile material that continues to challenge architects today. This year the shortlisted projects will be displayed at  Timber Expo on 8th October as part of UK Construction Week, a fantastic opportunity for architects to have their work seen by many in the industry at the biggest trade show for commercial, residential, planning and design professionals.

WAN AWARDS recently hosted a jury session to analyse the 23 longlisted projects, selecting just six to be shortlisted. From these six schemes a single winner will be picked for the 2015 WAN Wood in Architecture Award. The jury judged entries on a number of factors including how the design addressed the key elements of the client’s brief and specific examples of how each building has evolved its specific building type, incorporated wood as a material and been integrated within its context and / or community.

Chosen for their unique insights and extensive experience with wood in architecture, the jury panel for WAN Wood in Architecture 2015 category was Adrian Campbell, Associate Director at Arup Associates; James Greaves, Partner at Hopkins Architects; Dmitri Jajich, Associate Director at Skidmore Owings & Merrill and Mikko Viljakainen, Director at Puuinfo.

First to be shortlisted was the Suburban Studio in London, United Kingdom by Ashton Porter Architects. The garden is transformed into a courtyard which is addressed by both the timber bookends of the studio at one end and the remodelled house at the other. The judges all felt this scheme was refreshing and well-articulated, it demonstrated the variety in which wood can be used.  In the courtyard a series of timber hatches lift to reveal a subterranean sandpit, fire pit and paddling pool. The studio is structured entirely from timber studwork and plywood. The wall construction is entirely from stressed ply composite panels with no hidden steel supporting frame. Adrian Campbell was intrigued by this project, commenting “It’s technically done a lot with a small amount of wood, I like the finish internally”. Dmitri Jajich agreed, saying “It’s doing complicated things with very simple means”. 

Metsä Group Head Office by Helin & Co Architects based in Espoo, Finland was also selected as one of the shortlisted projects. James Greaves was soon to comment, saying "I think it’s stunning". Visually and technically superb, the judges felt this project was finished to a very high standard. It was intended that the space should be operationally as flexible in use and column-free as possible. The scheme features wood as a prominent material, the main supports are trestles, in which the pillars are made from milled laminated veneer timber and the double beams from glulam. Skylights open between the trestles, while the secondary infills are insulated wooden panels. The facades are structured as abstract metaphors of birch forest with varying vertical angles.

Next to be selected was the Dune House in Terschelling, Netherlands by Marc Koehler Architects. “It fits well within the landscape, it’s like a found object in the dunes” commented James Greaves. The use of wood in this project was inspired by the landscape, local vegetation and local naval industry. The facades are materialised with a western red cedar wooden cladding. The top construction of the house, assembled within two weeks, is made from cross-laminated timber panels (CLT) designed beforehand using BIM software, allowing full control of the design to detail from a distance and avoiding on-site setbacks. Mikko Viljakainen commented that “This project demonstrates a strong example of using CLT panels”. Walnut wood was used throughout the interior design, which the judges all felt was well refined. “The staircase is really elegantly done, the architects have embraced the wood as a flexible material” Adrian Campbell. 

Also picked for the shortlist was Sayama Forest Chapel in Saitama, Japan by NAP Architects. The building unfolds in every direction as if woven into the gaps between the trees, which allows the roof structure itself to bear vertical and horizontal load without the unwelcome presence of shear wall. The highest point of the ceiling is 7.25 m. "It’s the highest pitched roof I’ve ever seen" said Dmitri Jajich. The face-width of pillars made of laminated Japanese larch and the transverse beams are fixed in place with plywood to suppress buckling. All the judges were taken with the beauty of this building, with James Greaves saying “It’s everything you want in a piece of architecture, they’ve brought the natural quality of the wood out” with Adrian Campbell commenting shortly after “its pure elegance and joy, what an inspirational place to be”. 

Next to be selected for the shortlist was Hacine Chérifi Gymnasium in Rillieux-la-Pape, France by Tectoniques. The programme includes a multi-purpose sports hall and a gymnasium. Part of the facility is underground and it is accessed from the top of the spectator seating stands, so the height of the building, as viewed from the street, is half of its actual height, which minimises the impact of its very large volume by putting the building on the same scale as those in the neighbouring school. The whole building is covered with vertical larchwood cladding and is voluntarily neutral. Inside, the building structures have mostly been left exposed, which the judges felt was neat and well finished, Adrian Campbell said “the detailing in the entrance way is absolutely fantastic”. The whole structure uses 583m3 of wood in a variety of different forms and the facility is equipped with a wood-fueled heating system. Dmitri Jajich commented that “It shows you can use wood in several ways”. 

Last but not least, the Federal Center South Building 1202 in Seattle, United States by ZGF Architects LLP, was selected for the shortlist. This project was a response to a funding requirement to reuse portions of the existing warehouse that previously stood on the site of the design of the new 1202 building. The judges were impressed with the care that had gone in to the reuse for a project of this scale. Approximately 100,000 board feet of salvageable structural timber and 200,000 board feet of decking (92%) was reclaimed to form the foundation of the central atrium structural system, and interior cladding. Using a phased demolition process, wood components were individually harvested from the existing on-site warehouse. A mock-up was built to test structural integrity since each beam would be used as a ’composite timber/concrete beam system’. Dmitri Jajich said ”A lot of architects are scared of using reclaimed wood as you have to be creative and work with what you have. We don’t have enough examples in architecture of the afterlife of materials, this reuse is a fantastic example.” James Greaves agreed, saying "they’ve made it special by using this rich reclaimed wood". 

Congratulations to all of the six shortlisted projects of this specialist category. Details of the winning scheme will be announced on the 8th October at Timber Expo, as part UK Construction Week.


Lydia O’Callaghan

Awards Coordinator

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