WAN Wood in Architecture Award 2016 Shortlist Announced

Nick Myall
27 Feb 2017

Six shortlisted projects highlighting the best in Wood in Architecture

The WAN Wood in Architecture Award 2016 is a specialist category that showcases the elegant, natural and versatile material that continues to challenge architects today. The ongoing sustainability demands currently facing architecture, ensure that wood, being one of the most versatile building materials available, remains a strong contender for a wide range of applications within today’s buildings

This year’s respected jury panel within the Wood in Architecture category were:

James Greaves, Partner at Hopkins Architects, Professor Richard Harris, Professor of Timber Engineering at the University of Bath, Yew-Thong Leong, Associate Professor and Managing Director at Ryerson University / ssg architecture inc and Andrew Waugh, Director at Waugh Thistleton Architects.

The jury were impressed with the high standard of all of this year’s entries and had the difficult task of selecting a shortlist. However, after much discussion, the jury agreed on a shortlist of six, listed below in no particular order:

The Smile in London, United Kingdom by Alison Brooks Architects

‘The Smile’ was a hugely successful Landmark Project for the 2016 London Design Festival. Located in the Chelsea College of Art (UAL) Parade Ground this 136 sq m public pavilion was constructed using large format cross–laminated hardwood panels, a world first.

Yew-Thong liked the way the project appealed to people’s sense of fun and sparked their curiosity: “I love this!!  It works structurally, materially, spatially and aesthetically.  It has no functional purpose other than creating and sparking human curiosity, and places a smile on everyone's face!! This reminds me of a wood version of Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate (or the Jelly Bean) in Chicago. Wood can be just as a “crafty” material as any other.”

Andrew appreciated the use of cross–laminated hardwood panels as a new building material on the project with implications for the whole industry: “Not only is there a very simple, clear pushing of the boundaries in terms of the engineering, but also there is a real artistic elegance to the project. They are also inventing a new material to build with. An engineered hardwood made of tulip wood, this can spawn and revitalise a whole industry. It’s very simple, very playful, very accessible, but a very sophisticated piece of architecture.”

Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom by Foster + Partners 

In 2008, Foster + Partners was commissioned to design a mixed-use scheme encompassing the over-ground elements of a new station for the Crossrail project at Canary Wharf. While the station below this development will be operational only in 2018, the shops, restaurants and roof garden were opened to the public in May this year.

Yew-Thong liked the use of wood on the roof of this project: “I really appreciate the decision to use a timber roof on a public infrastructure project and I am certain it took a great deal of discussions before arriving at that decision.”

Located in the north dock, adjacent to the HSBC tower at Canary Wharf and the residential neighbourhood of Poplar, the scheme creates an accessible amenity between the two, creating new shared and open space.

Richard went on to say that he appreciated the conclusion to a long planning process: “This project showcases the uses of wood in an urban context where you would not expect it to be seen or used.  And using wood on a huge scale, and doing it very elegantly. It took a concept that we saw in the press 10-years ago probably and it has delivered exactly as the concept looked. I think it’s amazing, I didn’t see this being delivered and here it is!”

Säie Pavilion in Helsinki and Tuusula, Finland by Aalto University Wood Program 

The Säie pavilion was designed and built by students of the Wood Program at Aalto University in order to provide a covered space for workshops, lectures, eating and lounging in the centre of the city.

Richard was impressed with the level of innovation that was present on this project: “It makes complete structural sense to do it like that, not just curvy roofs, but with flat roofs as well, pushing wood apart and using blocks, they’ve done the right thing, to set them back and use a shadow gap. What this project represents is innovation, through the use of computing, to get complexity in a computer and then fabricating it.”

Rather than using glu-lamination, the complex geometry of the building is achieved through actively bending pine elements and fixing them together using joints of CNC-cut birch plywood.

Yew-Thong was impressed with the level of planning that went into the formation of the structure: “What most impressed me is the level of structural and constructability analysis conducted, so that the final form is not just aesthetically pleasing but also structurally and materially appropriate."

Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre in Surrey, Canada by HCMA Architecture + Design

Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre sets its world class aquatic facilities beneath the world’s longest span timber catenary roof built to date. The undulating roof form pushes the limits of wood as a structural element, highlighting its potential as a cost-effective, structurally-efficient, and aesthetically-pleasing building material.

James appreciated the form of the innovative cable roof made of timber: “When you see that interior it just has everything, it’s in the functional tradition of heroic concrete, then you would expect to see a cable roof with cables. And you go inside and see this beautiful warm cable roof made of timber, which we haven’t seen before, is very innovative. What I particularly like is the subtle undulation in the middle, which just pushes the cable roof up to connect the two spaces beautifully and seamlessly.”

The Centre cleverly balances form and function to provide an aquatic environment fit for a diverse and growing community.

Richard concluded by praising the highly engineered solution that the project adopted: “To achieve what they have done, you have to have the best possible engineering. You are making the wood in tension, which is its strongest capability, but is rarely done as you have to get everything right.”

Moholt 50|50 - Timber Towers in Trondheim, Norway by MDH Arkitekter

Student housing often drowns in mediocrity, with simple units stacked on top of each other in the cheapest way possible and left to themselves without support programs. The Moholt 50|50 project is a reaction to this. By inserting new housing collectives and a wide range of support services and public programs into an existing student village built in the sixties, a new active central area is created, erasing the psychological border between the student village and the surrounding area.

James was particularly struck by the simplicity of the project: “This project is ambitious in its use of timber, completely utilising timber both internally and externally with real conviction. Beautifully detailed, the rooms seem very sensible, spacious and well-planned. It’s the best of restrained Scandinavian architecture. They’ve resisted the temptation to fancy it up, it’s a very subtle piece of architecture which works very well within its landscape.”

The five towers are all nine-storeys high with a height of 28 metres. The basement and ground floor levels are made in cast reinforced concrete. From the first floor to the ninth floor the structure consists of prefabricated CLT-elements.

Andrew concluded by highlighting the growth of timber as a material in the construction of tall buildings across the globe: “This project is very much part of a growing family of architecture which is about large solid timber buildings as a viable alternative to concrete/steel buildings.”

Washington Fruit & Produce Company in Yakima, Washington, USA by Graham Baba Architects 

Washington Fruit, family owned and operated since 1916, grows, packs and ships premium fruit products throughout the world. The company’s facilities occupy 90 acres of industrial land, including some of the most advanced sorting and packing equipment in existence. Company leaders desired a new office/headquarters that would serve as a refuge from the industrial agribusiness landscape. They asked for warmer materials, no concrete, non-boxlike forms, protection from the freeway, and minimal visible equipment or devices. Light and acoustics were high priorities.

Richard appreciated the simplicity of the project and the way the design of the industrial building had been approached: “This is a very large building which uses a strong repetitive element, which works very well. They have given it enough scale to work really well.”

The approach for the new office was to create an inwardly focused oasis. The building is surrounded by earth berms and a site wall placed so that views out are directed upward toward the basalt hills and the foreground of freeways and industrial agribusiness are obscured.

Andrew was also impressed with the strong repetitive element of the project going on to say: “The repetitive element Richard is referring to is perfect for its purpose. The simple architecture is beautiful, and to be that simple takes confidence, perfectly done.”

The jury also wanted to commend outside of the shortlist the Three-Familiy Home in Oberieden, Switzerland by pool Architekten. Embedded in the settlement structure consisting of both historically valuable and modern, individual buildings, the three-family home asserts itself as a self-confident element within the core zone of Oberieden. The very narrow and elongated lot, intersected by a brook, the Butzenbach, and the different locational aspects of the site form the basis of the building arrangement.

Richard liked simplicity and the scale of this project: “Whilst houses by their nature don’t offer much innovation this is an obvious human scale architectural challenge. This project provides simplicity, elegance and expression of wood to meet that challenge beautifully at a human scale.”

WAN AWARDS would like to thank the jury and congratulate all six finalists in the WAN Wood in Architecture Award 2016. The final winner of this award will be announced on 7 March 2017.


Nick Myall

News Editor

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