Touch wood

The finalists for the first "Wood Excellence Prize" at the World Architecture Festival take the creative application of wood to new heights.

Advancements in materials development and manufacturing have driven a converse corresponding appreciation for the wonders of wood. An appreciation for the uber natural material is almost universal. And designers and architects are finding ever more creative applications to use it.

The World Architecture Festival (WAF) has introduced a special prize for architectural designs in wood for the first time this year. The Wood Excellence Prize, sponsored by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), recognises designs that employ wood in a creative way as an integral part of the project. 

Over 40 submissions for the inaugural award were received, and the eight finalists have just been announced. Final judging wil be led by renowned Italian architect, Matteo Thun, with the winner announced at the WAF awards ceremony on 3 October 2014 in Singapore.

Beyond beautiful applications of timber in structure and finish, the finalists include two buildings made entire of prefabricated timber panels and scrap wood respectively, two projects where the timber roof structure morphs into so much more, and a house where a timber screen is used to create a flexible facade.  

Salvaged Ring by a21studio is a coffee shop located along a highway in the countryside of Nha Trang, Vietnam. After years of working as a local carpenter, the owner amassed a stockpile of scrap wood that he wished to give a second life to. The scap wood became both the inspiration and the main material for the structure and finishes. The only other materials used in the building are natural rock and coconut leaves for the dramatic thatched roof.
This design for Alex Monroe’s new jewellery studio in Snowsfields, London by DSDHA is made entirely from prefabricated timber panels. The handcrafted three-storey element is added to the existing Edwardian single-storey shopfront. Internally this simple wooden structure is left visible.
This design by a21studio in Vietnam is aptly named The Tent. The expansive roof structure covers a small spa perched on a rocky hill above a hot spring and mineral resort. The wooden structure is covered by three layers: a layer of thick wood panels, which gives an aesthetic look to the ceiling; a waterproof membrane; and a layer of coconut leaves. All of these parts are connected by using indigenous building techniques, mortise and tenon joints.
The Pinch by Olivier Ottevaere and John Lin of the University of Hong Kong is another innovative roof as structure, The building houses a library and community centre in Shuanghe Village, Yunnan Province, China. The architects turned the wooden roof into a bridge connecting two levels that also features a slide for children. The project is part of a government-led reconstruction effort after an earthquake in September 2012.
Located on the beachfront in Sydney, Australia, the design of an operable wooden facade by Andrew Burges Architects allows the Pittwater House to be opened to the view and the breeze. Wood is also used extensively on the interior of the house.
The School 't Hofke by UArchitects in Eindhoven, Netherlands, is so much more than just a primary school. The building caters for five different users groups who utilise the facilities together for education, care, sports and neighborhood facilities. The warmth of wood is extensively employed to offset concrete and brick work.
The Regional Terminal at Christchurch Airport by BVN Donovan Hill in Christchurch, New Zealand, has already scooped two Canterbury Architecture Awards in the Commercial and Interior categories, where it was praised by judges for its "subtle and sympathetic use of materials".
Earth Wind and Fire is a sweeping wooden structure by Atelier Arcau in Vannes, France. One of the largest architecture studios in western France, Atelier Arcau won a 2012 WAF award in the Civic and Community category for Salorge, a mixed-use community and office space in the French suburb of Pornic.