Most modern buildings are built using glass walls and stone or concrete façades leaving wood siding to residential buildings. With the improvements in CLT (cross-laminated timber) it’s no wonder that there is an increase in popularity in using wood for exterior facade materials on high-rise wood buildings and integrating wood façades in commercial construction. Trends in residential siding include color, composite materials, and innovative finishes like charred wood, also known as Shou sugi ban, an ancient Japanese practice.

Artistic, innovative or simply interesting, building façades create an architectural standout. We explore 10 examples of unique wooden façades that don’t disappoint.

1. Aspen Art Museum

Situated on the edge of South Spring Street and East Hyman Avenue in Aspen’s downtown, the new AAM is Shigeru Ban’s first permanent U.S. museum to be constructed. Shigeru Ban’s visualization for the AAM is based on transparency and open view planes—inviting those outsides to interact with the building’s interior, and providing those inside the opportunity to see their exterior surroundings.

 The Grand Stair—a three-level passageway between the building’s woven exterior screen and its internal structure—is intersected by a glass wall dividing it into a twelve-foot-wide exterior space and a six-foot-wide interior space. The unique pathway allows for the natural blending of internal and external spaces, and will also feature mobile pedestals for exhibiting art. The external Woven Wood Screen is made of the composite material Prodema—a concoction of paper and resin encased within a dual-sided wood veneer.

Aspen Art Museum - Sheet1
Aspen Art Museum ©
Aspen Art Museum - Sheet2
Aspen Art Museum ©

2. Sound Community Bank

Upon first glance, you might not believe this Sound Community Bank was previously a Burger King. Maybe not on second or third glance, either. Spore Architects worked on the existing footprint to create an upscale branch featuring custom elements like sliding wall panels and graffiti. The crisp, current façade is an amalgamation of corrugated metal, composite panels, and cedar rainscreen that gives the bank a durable look that will last. The panel size is 3000 sq ft – 5000 sq ft.

Sound Community Bank - Sheet1
Sound Community Bank ©
Sound Community Bank - Sheet2
Sound Community Bank ©

3. University of Minnesota

The university was looking towards creating an architectural language that spoke to the idea of a farmstead but didn’t directly recreate the barn structure.“Using a modernized wood, the material was a preference from a sustainability aspect,” said Chris Wingate, LEED AP and associate at MSR Design.

Accoya wood was the ideal choice as it is one of the few building products to have acquired Cradle to CradleSM Certification at the elusive C2C Gold Level, and a C2C Platinum Level recognition for the most important C2C green category; Material Health. All of the exterior cladding is wood, both charred and stained. The charred wood was completed by Delta Millworks based in Austin, Texas.

University of Minnesota - Sheet1
University of Minnesota ©
University of Minnesota - Sheet2
University of Minnesota ©

4. The Sleeve House, New York

Delta Millworks manufactured this particular siding for a truly unique, all-season weekend home in New York. Using the Japanese finishing process called “Shou sugi ban” the wood, supplied to Delta by Universal Forest Products, was charred to give the house’s façade a modern, weathered texture.

By using this technique, the final look is a striking, deep color finish. The char developed on wood creates more dense and durable. Wood’s dimensional stability provides a foundation to achieve increased char service life.

The Sleeve House, New York - Sheet1
The Sleeve House ©
The Sleeve House, New York - Sheet2
The Sleeve House ©

5. Junction 9

MoDA was asked in 2013 to reimagine an existing 10,000 sq. ft. three-storey building in the historic Calgary neighborhood of Inglewood. The main feature of the project is its expressive exterior screen.

One of the initial constraints they needed to consider was reanimating the front façade of a building made of concrete and wedged tightly up against the front property line. The screen was designed according to the narrow parameters of ‘building signage’ and satisfied the ARP through its use of natural material. They challenged themselves to design the screen such that it was performative and multivalent in its function rather than merely a tack on. They employed the derivative techniques related to parametric design as a direct response to their desire to capture a sense of movement. A topographic relief of varying thicknesses was applied to the vertical fins, creating alternating fields of opacity and transparency when observed from different angles, putting the screen in a constant state of flux. In addition to its sculptural and temporal features, the screen performs in the following ways:

  • Branding & Signage: Through parametrically applying a topographic relief to the fins, the screen echoes not only the flow of movement happening within the building.
  • Wayfinding: The screen contorts from vertical to horizontal above the front entry, forming a soffit condition that enters the building, leading one from the street up into the studio space.
  • View Attenuation: The structure looks towards a relatively banal tract of 9th Avenue, from the interior the screen captures ‘snapshot-like’ instances of the traffic and street life.
Junction 9 - Sheet2
Junction 9 ©
Junction 9 - Sheet1
Junction 9 ©

6. Oregon Bach Festival Building

The Oregon Bach Festival was assigned its building at the University of Oregon for the first time in history. The building, Berwick Hall, is crowded with rehearsal, recital, and lecture facilities and is located near the School of Music and Dance. Wood was chosen for the cladding as it blended in with the other materials in the building and the surrounding neighborhood and wood requires significantly less maintenance than other cladding materials.

Oregon Bach Festival Building - Sheet1
Oregon Bach Festival Building ©
Oregon Bach Festival Building - Sheet2
Oregon Bach Festival Building ©

7. Thistle Foundation

3DReid has finished a new Health & Wellbeing Centre for the Thistle Foundation. Through immense use of timber cladding, both inside and outside, the project offers a warm and inviting environment for those who visit, many of whom suffer from anxiety-related health conditions.

The timber cladding will hold on to its current hue, throughout its lifespan, maintaining consistency at the interfaces between the internal and external use of the material, whilst offering a color palette that tonally aligns to the building’s surroundings. Extended fins to the East and West facades help reduce solar gain and glare, to the first-floor office spaces, whilst the cladding also integrates the ‘Thistle’ logo.

Externally, the palette of materials is completed via the use of brickwork and pre-cast concrete – selected to complement the stonework of the Chapel and rendered facades of the surrounding houses, respectively. 

Thistle Foundation - Sheet1
Thistle ©
Thistle Foundation - Sheet2
Thistle ©

8. Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Four coats of permeating and sealing stains are on the wood siding of this duplex house in Pittsburgh’s upscale Squirrel Hill community. The hands-on owner of the house was impressed with both the feature of the shiplap-patterned outer walls and durability of wood, 50-year guarantee above ground, and low carbon footprint. This was a primitive element in the ultra-energy-efficient duplex achieving a passive house certification – the first in the area.

Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Sheet1
Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex ©
Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Sheet2
Squirrel Hill Passive House Duplex ©

9. Langley Academy

Langley is a famous science academy, concentrating on the environment. Its new building promotes sustainability, which includes harvesting rainwater in a central tank for flushing the toilets. As a result of the design, the school achieves the lowest carbon emissions ratings of any school built in the City Academies programme.

The new design is perfectly curated to work in tandem with the school’s innovative curriculum, and the exterior wood cladding is sourced from sustainable timber.

Langley Academy - Sheet1
Langley Academy ©
Langley Academy - Sheet2
Langley Academy ©

10. Modern Home Using Charred Wood by Resawn, New York

Manufactured by reSAWN TIMBER, Wood was chosen from the MATSU Shou sugi ban charred collection to clad a project in Bellport, New York. Designed by Studio DB, the wood was burnt on the outer facing side of the tongue and groove joint and specified because of its extreme durability, exterior weathering capabilities, and exterior warranty.

Charred using the old Japanese method of the Shou sugi ban, MATSU is finished without brushing off the soft charcoal layer. This charcoal layer is a superficial wear coat that will flake slowly (as is expected for any natural building product) over time to reveal a blackened effect underneath with alteration in color from grey to brown tones – perfect for this heavily wooded landscape.

Modern Home Using Charred Wood by Resawn, New York - Sheet1
Modern Home Using Charred Wood ©
Modern Home Using Charred Wood by Resawn, New York - Sheet2
Modern Home Using Charred Wood ©

Prachi Surana is a budding Architect, studying in the Final Year B. Arch at BNCA, Pune. She is a dreamer, believer, hard worker and believes in the power of the Good. Prachi spends her time reading, painting, travelling, writing and working on the Design Team for NASA, India.