What is the first thought that strikes our mind when we think of constructing a wooden building? We usually perceive moods derived from the primitive type of cottages, huts, etc. of humble and cozy living. However, the world has enthused forward of our likeness for the basic assumptions related to the use of wood in modern architecture. Wood has proved to be the only carbon-neutral material, such that if your house contains 20 cubic meters of wood, it will save 16 tonnes of carbon emission. Its versatility of up to 5000 kinds of wood broadens our creativity to choose from a diverse range of hues, colors, textures, strength, and other structural, mechanical, and physical properties.

To dive in deeper into the leading examples of the use of wood in modern and sustainable architecture, here are ten projects as follows:

1. SunnyHills Minami Aoyama Store

Architect: Kengo Kuma & Associates
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Year: 2013

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Night View of SunnyHills ©tokyobelly.blogspot.com (Steve, 2014)

Famous for its Taiwanese dessert, this shop’s design is inspired by a bamboo basket. It looks like a cloud of wood hovering in comparison to the stiff and solid concrete blocks in its context. Light filters through the lattice structure, enhancing the quality of the interior.

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Well-lit interior of SunnyHills ©Gallery of SunnyHills at Minami-Aoyama / Kengo Kuma & Associates

The joints are formed by the traditional Japanese technique Jiigoku-Gumimi. Interestingly the joints are created in three-dimension at a 30-degree angle instead of the typical planar muntin grid.

Joint system detail ©Gallery of SunnyHills at Minami-Aoyama / Kengo Kuma & Associates

2. Metropolis Parasol

Architect: J.Mayer.H und Partner
Location: Seville, Spain
Year: 2011

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Views over Andalusian capital ©Dave Curry’s Travels

Six linked parasols cover the square of Plaza de la Encarnació creating a space with four permeable levels. The use of wood in this structure provides shade and thermal comfort in the spiking hot climate of Spain. After experimentations, a micro-laminated wood ‘Kerto’ was chosen to design and construct this landmark for the city.

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Technical Details- Joinery details ©Metropol Parasol. Photo courtesy: Fernando Alda

Timber veneer of 3mm with a waterproof polyurethane coating was used in the joint system to give a higher shear strength than solid wood. Connection details are based on 3000 nodes of glued-in steel bars. The waffle-like structure became the definition of ‘cathedral without walls’ as desired by the German architect Jürgen Mayer H.

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Metropol Parasol ©Metropol Parasol Photo courtesy: Fernando Alda

Metropol Parasol became one of the largest timber-based structures in the world with no element of any parasol to be found identical due to the computer-generated design. It houses socio-cultural activities and showcases the archaeological collection of the past.

3. Swatch Headquarters

Architect: Shigeru Ban
Location: Biel, Switzerland
Year: 2019

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The Vault- Swatch HQ ©Swatch, Shigeru Ban Creates One of the World’s Largest Timber Structures for Swatch Headquarters in Biel

The façade serves as a connection between Swatch and Cité du Temps. 4600 timber elements, mainly spruce, are used in its construction with a precision of 0.1 mm through computer engineering. The wood acts as an ecological and sustainable part of the building, consuming only a part of the Swiss forest that takes less than two hours to regrow.

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Exterior Zoom-in ©Swatch, Shigeru Ban Creates One of the World’s Largest Timber Structures for Swatch Headquarters in Biel

The structure is wired with a complex mesh of cables. 2800 honeycomb panels of timber were worked on as 50 individual elements. The three different types of honeycomb panels are opaque, translucent, and transparent elements. Each element with its distinct function of thermal insulation, weather resistance, natural light, opening for smoke extraction, and photovoltaic cells, shows the sensitivity and depth of thought put into the design.

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Interior Hues & space contrast ©Swatch, Shigeru Ban Creates One of the World’s Largest Timber Structures for Swatch Headquarters in Biel
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View projection from the HQ ©Swatch, Shigeru Ban Creates One of the World’s Largest Timber Structures for Swatch Headquarters in Biel
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Entrance lobby- Glass, steel & wood ©Swatch, Shigeru Ban Creates One of the World’s Largest Timber Structures for Swatch Headquarters in Biel

4. Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

Architect: Studio Gang
Location: Kalamazoo, United States
Year: 2014

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Façade of the Arcus Center; Photo courtesy: Steve Hall for Hedrich Blessing (Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Studio Gang ©ArchDaily

The center engages the community in an active discussion of human rights and social justice. The center works as a meeting place for the faculty, students, social justice leaders, and public representatives to share and commute their ideas.

The design transforms the language of its purpose into construction techniques and visual aesthetics. The traditional method of wall masonry falls into the immediate context of the grove landscape. The use of logs shows the density and diversity of people in a community as a design concept. It also acts as the load-bearing wall with insulation properties. The traditional technique seizes carbon to turn the façade into a high-performance building envelope.

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Exterior; Photo courtesy: Steve Hall for Hedrich Blessing (Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Studio Gang ©ArchDaily
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Interior; Photo courtesy: Steve Hall for Hedrich Blessing (Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership , Studio Gang ©ArchDaily
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Detail; Photo courtesy: Iwan Baan (Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Studio Gang ©ArchDaily

5. Anaklia-Ganmuhkuri Pedestrian Bridge

Architect: LAP Consult
Location: Tbilisi, Georgia
Year: 2012

The bridge extends over 500 meters over the river Enguri that flows into the Black Sea. The bridge serves as a connection between the town of Ganmuhkuri and the Gregorian resort of Anaklia. It is constructed of laminated timber that makes it eco-friendly, and steel. It is the longest footbridge in Europe with timber trusses joined by slotted plates and dowel joints.

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Anaklia-Ganmuhkuri footbridge, Anaklia-Ganmuhkuri Pedestrian Bridge ©Architizer
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Local chestnut walkway board, Anaklia-Ganmuhkuri Pedestrian Bridge ©Architizer
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Timber trusses at a 45-degree joint; Anaklia-Ganmukhuri Pedestrian Bridge ©hess-timber.com

6. The Globe of Science and Innovation

Architect: Hervé Dessimoz of Groupe-H Architects
Location: CERN, Geneva, Switzerland
Year: 2010

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The Globe of Science and Innovation at CERN ©Dinika, 2017

Designed for the Science exhibition of 2010 at CERN, the Globe of Science and Innovation turned out to be the tallest dome made of timber with 27 m height and 40m diameter. The structure encloses the exhibition designed by Atelier Buckner on the concept of Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The structure encouraging sustainability uses state-of-art technology to generate an interactive display for the audience.

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Interior of the Globe ©CERN, Universe of Particles

7. Cathedral of Christ the Light

Architect: SOM
Location: Oakland, United States
Year: 2008

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Play of light, Gallery of The Cathedral of Christ the Light ©SOM

The cathedral is a high-rise building designed by the architectural firm famous for its tall structures and landmarks like Burj Dubai. The cathedral uses a hybrid structure of fly ash concrete, timber, and steel to last a 1000 years. The use of seismic techniques, including base isolation, also ensures durability. The bending and returning property of wood add to the strength and aesthetics of the contemporary structure.

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Exterior, Gallery of The Cathedral of Christ the Light ©SOM
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Interior of the Cathedral, Gallery of The Cathedral of Christ the Light ©SOM

8. China Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015

Architect: Studio Link-Arc
Location: Milan, Italy
Year: 2015

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China Pavilion exterior; Photo courtesy: Sergio Grazia, China Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015 ©Studio Link-Arc

The pavilion based on the concept of the ‘Land of Hope’ displays the harmony of the city and nature. The materials and sequence of space illustrate the cultural ethics and traditional techniques of China in the most modern way.

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China Pavilion- Land of Hope; Photo courtesy: Sergio Grazia (China Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015, ©Studio Link-Arc

The wood shingles in the roof refer to the tradition of the pottery method of roof construction. The shingles have slits to induce a play of light while providing shade to the public, imitating the bamboo leaves. An interactive digital exhibition of the landscape of wheat that speaks for the pavilion’s concept leading to the agrarian roots of the country. Thus, wood supports the cultural context, as well as the structure.

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China Pavilion interior; Photo courtesy: Sergio Grazia, China Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015 ©Studio Link-Arc

9. Grotto Sauna

Architect: Partisans
Location: Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada
Year: 2014

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CNC generated interior; ©Jonathan Friedman (Grotto Sauna / Partisans, 2019)

After scanning the granite cliff with the Leica 3D laser scanner, the team sculpted the rock in a variety of options. The concept of a grotto is taken to come up with design solutions. The exterior merges with the contextual background, whereas the interior blends in with the contours.

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Sunset at the Sauna ©Jonathan Friedman (Grotto Sauna / Partisans, 2019)

The grotto sauna uses cedar wood as the core material because of its color, odor, local availability, quality, and resistance to rot. There is an energy-efficient aluminum foil placed between the wood and its mount to help the wood expand due to heat. The wood is allowed to breathe through the slits in seating via the convective flow of air. The fans and vents make sure that there is no mold in the structure, while the interior remains tightly sealed.

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Interior details ©Jonathan Friedman (Grotto Sauna / Partisans, 2019)
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Sauna interior ©Jonathan Friedman (Grotto Sauna / Partisans, 2019)

10. The HAUT

Architect: Team V Architects
Location: The Netherlands
Year: 2021

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Realized visual of the HAUT ©Team V Architects (The Netherlands’ Tallest Timber Tower to Be Built in Amsterdam, 2016)

The tallest wooden building to be constructed in the Netherlands along the bank of river Amstel 73-meter (21-story) to trap over 3 million kilos of CO2. It will be the second tallest timber structure in Europe. The HAUT aims to achieve the BREEAM Outstanding label with a net-zero carbon footprint construction. The building will have an energy-generating façade, urban winter garden, indoor public farm, cycle storage, and underground parking with 55 apartment units.

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Interior of the HAUT ©Team V Architects (The Netherlands’ Tallest Timber Tower to Be Built in Amsterdam, 2016)

REFERENCES:

Syeda Neha Zaidi
Author

With an ambitious spirit to explore the world, Neha has embarked upon building her professional journey beginning from UAE, to Egypt, to what future holds next; to uncover the “extraordinary” in the places we see as ordinary keeping one eye ahead of the time and deeper into how architecture influences socio-culture, norms and behavior.

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