Up in the trees: architects take wood to new design heights

22 September 2014 (Last Updated September 22nd, 2014 18:30)

Architects and designers are combining sustainability with innovation to create remarkable wooden structures, such as the futuristic looking luxury treehouse eco homes built by Blue Forest. We take a look at a range of recent wood projects and analyse the designs and techniques they use.

Up in the trees: architects take wood to new design heights

Tree House
Given the brief to design a building with simple character and leisure space by cladding company Face of Buildings, Austrian design outfit Heri & Salli delivered a concept that adds both fun and functionality to the workplace. The standout feature of this building made entirely from wood - spruce on the inside, larch outside and Canadian pine on top - is a timber frame that surrounds the main building and offers staff the opportunity of fixing façades to it during work time, or indulging their inner child and climbing it in times of play.

With a wooden elevator, fully compliant with Austrian fire regulations, ferrying staff between floors and winter heating from a wood burning stove, fuelled by logs that employees bring in, the building wholly embraces the potential of the material.

Explaining the exterior wooden frame, the company said: "The shell on the outside was built of prefabricated stable panel elements made of timber frame construction. The visible support and beam construction defines the basic grid of the building extension and can be used as mounting aid for façade prototypes, climbing scaffold and if necessary as supporting structure for sun sails in front of big glazing."

Up in the trees

Eco-friendly builder Blue Forest approaches each project with the intention of constructing a structure that complements its surrounding environment. With its latest project, a spectacular treehouse that stands six metres off the ground atop timber ribs, the team chose to use Kebony wood to maximise sustainability.

Developed in Norway, Kebony is produced by infusing non-durable soft woods with bio-based liquid that maintains the attractive appeal of soft wood while adding the long-term durability of hard wood.

Unveiled at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in July, surrounded by 34 acres of gardens, The Quiet Mark Treehouse features a cedar-lined interior to give a light feel and woody smell. The three primary trunks on which the main building sits are constructed of 48 interlocking timber fins that are stained dark brown to portray a natural bark feel. Inside, the main building contains a kitchenette and island, lit up from the eight floor to ceiling windows that surround it.

"We use only the highest quality products to ensure that they are able to withstand and not damage the environment," said Blue Forest director Simon Payne. "Kebony was a fitting choice for this project because of its strength and environmental credibility. Its organic, natural beauty means that it looks fantastic amongst the stunning array of gardens on display at RHS."

coffee shop made from wood

Evolving markets

Tasked with constructing the pavilion to house French exhibitors at the recent Milan Expo, XTU Architects responded to the brief of building 'a fertile market' by transforming the idea of a market as a place of exchange to one of production. The ridged hall structure, which was built by criss-crossing layers of timber, was designed to accommodate the growing of various herbs and vegetables. Hops are grown on the façade of the building, herbs on the terrace and vegetables are grown within the rooftop restaurant and consumed on site, all enabled through the application of French hydroponic technology.

Explaining the concept, XTU Architects, said: "At the time of short circuit retails, it reinterprets the market model: once a place of exchange, tomorrow's market will be a place of production to be consumed on the spot. Here we have the exhibition on the ground level, the consumption on the terrace and the production on façades and roofs."

For this building made entirely of wood, the design team used digital modelling and cutting to enable complex geometry and composition. Open until the end of October, the pavilion will host a festival to celebrate the harvesting of the hops being grown on the façade. The concept was built around four pillars: feed the world today, feed the world tomorrow, pleasure and food, and commitment to the future.

 

Scrapping waste

Having accumulated a large stock of waste wood after years of working, a carpenter in Nha Trang, Vietnam commissioned local designers A21 Studio to breathe new life into it by using it to build a coffee house on the outskirts of the city. With a timber skeleton and thatched roof made from coconut leaves, the curved building draws on natural ventilation and light.

Wooden offcuts were louvered into wall panels and a curved roof serves as a guide, leading customers to the concrete staircase that leads to the upper floors.

Constructing the building entirely from surplus wood presented the designers with a number of challenges, but also contributed to its unique character and feel. "By taking advantages of scrap wood pieces stocked for many years, the salvaged ring is a highlight for carpentry technique together with striking spaces that can give an extraordinary value for the peaceful village," architect Toan Nghiem explained.

wooden skyscraper

Reaching new heights

In an ambitious entry for the HSB Stockholm architectural competition 2023, Berg C.F. Mø ller, working in partnership with Dinell Johansson and Tyrons, has proposed a 34-storey wooden skyscraper, intended to become a focal point for one of the world's most sustainable cities. The building, which, if constructed, will become the world's largest wooden building, makes the most of wood's light weight but strong structure and would turn the tide on the view of skyscrapers as environmentally damaging through its binding of CO2.

While the base would be made from concrete, the pillars and beams would be made of solid wood as would the walls, ceilings and window frames within the apartments. In keeping with its sustainability centric concept, the roof features solar panels to provide power to the building and each apartment will have an energy-saving, glass covered veranda. The development also includes a café and childcare complex at ground level as well as a market square, fitness centre and communal winter garden.

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