Leading architects champion sustainable design at Houtdag, the Dutch National Wood Day
The American Hardwood Export Council was the main sponsor of the Dutch National Wood Day (Houtdag) on Thursday 25th November 2010.
The event was jointly organised by the timber trade press magazine Het Houtblad, the Royal Dutch Timber Traders Association together with Centrum Hout the Dutch National Timber Information Centre. The venue chosen was the superb Philarmonie concert hall of the city of Haarlem, where thanks to talented Dutch architect Frits Van Dongen, wood plays a major role. The theme this year focused on wood’s contribution to sustainable building design and construction.
The programme included high profile European architects Shigeru Ban, Jim Greaves, Alex de Rijke and Jürgen Mayer amongst others. These architects have a wealth of experience in structural use of timber in projects spanning from Finland to Japan. Their projects demonstrate the highest environmental consideration through the use of wood instead of alternative materials.
David Venables opened the programme explaining the environmental credentials and specific uses of American hardwoods. He says, “Houtdag provided us with a wonderful platform to inform both specifiers and the trade on the LCA study we have just launched and to explain AHEC’s environmental strategy. Architects are increasingly conscientious about sustainable design and the impact of the materials they work with. This is why AHEC’s programme focuses on educating architects about the environmental credentials of US hardwoods, to help them make an informed decision about their choice of material.”
The event was extremely well attended by some 300 architects and timber trade professionals and marks an important manifestation of change in the construction industry, which AHEC will continue to support in our efforts to guide architects on what’s new and available.
“Wood is the new concrete”
Most of the keynote speakers were architects with a wealth of experience in structural use of timber in projects spanning from Finland to Japan. Jim Greaves from Hopkins Architects presented the new Kroon Hall building for Yale University which was awarded LEED platinum standard and includes a lot of American red oak in its design.
Alex de Rijke, one of the co-founders of dRMM Architects in London, has been championing timber in his various projects as the new concrete. “Timber is the new concrete because there is no downside to timber construction whereas every other construction process has quite serious downsides, particularly centred around carbon production.” The practice has received numerous awards for their work, including a Highly Commended accolade for Kingsdale School in the 'Learning' category of the World Architecture Festival 2008. The aim of this design project was to upgrade the 1950s school and give the 1200 pupils a social centre. The previous layout had a small assembly hall and an under-used central courtyard.
The new design stretches a new spectacular 80 by 40 meter roof over the now-interior courtyard made of an ultra-violet-stable fluoropolymer (ETFE), welded into cushions which lets in 50% of available daylight. Despite the spectacular roof, it is the domed, 314-seat auditorium and library that grabs one's attention in the courtyard. Standing just off centre, the pod is a geodesic wood structure. Birch members are connected via lightweight aluminium nodes and covered in plywood.
dRMM’s most recent project, the remarkable Sliding House, where a 20 ton autonomous roof/wall structure traverses the site on recessed railway tracks, creating combinations of shelter, insulation and open air living according to its position, is one of the most talked about projects of the year.
From bridges to churches and parasols
Haïko Meijer is a founding partner of Onix an international practice in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands with an impressive track record of projects of timber framed buildings and housing developments. They were also awarded this year’s Wood Innovation Award for the wooden bridge they designed in Sneek(NL) on either side of the A7 motorway. The project is a novelty in the Netherlands but also worldwide for its futuristic design and technical performances: this is the first uncovered wooden bridge in the heaviest load class designed in Accoya treated radiata pine.
As a component of the renewed A7 motorway, the wooden bridge was envisaged at two positions. The second wooden bridge will be built in 2010. The bridge marks a gateway between the inner city and the suburbs for passers-by crossing over the motorway. The two wooden trusses have been coupled together at the centre to ensure stability. The arched form arose by optimising the cross-section of the bridge for traffic. The triangular structure of the framework offers surprising visual perspectives. The contours call to mind the traditional cheese-cover farmhouses of Friesland.
The Finnish architect, Ansilla Lassila presented some of his many remarkable timber framed projects including three churches. His latest church and parish centre called Kuokkala is a masterpiece. The lovely lace-like timber vaulting made of spruce creates an ethereal atmosphere with dynamic exchanges of light and shade.
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban gave an overview of his emblematic building designs such as the new Pompidou Centre in France but also his disaster relief projects for victims of the tsunami in Sri-Lanka and earthquake victims in China, Italy and more recently in Haiti. He also presented some of his more recent projects such as the Haesley Golf clubhouse in S.Korea, an ethereal wooden structure with columns shaped in the form of golf tees.
Lastly, Jürgen Mayer presented Metropol Parasol, a visionary design for Seville which will be one of the largest architectural timber structures ever built. The object of this project was to highlight a plaza in Seville that was losing momentum with an iconic building that would become a real tourist attraction. The six parasols that support this extensive mushroom like roof structure, are made from Kerto engineered timber plates of 150mx70m with a polyutherane coating. Above the canopy there will be a skywalk and a restaurant providing panoramic views over the city and the Giralda cathedral. Below the canopy provides a wonderful play of light and shade during the day whilst visually identifying the archaeological museum that is located below. And of course with artificial lighting at night the six parasols become quite magical. Project completion is scheduled in six months time.
After this impressive array of timber framed projects, delegates could come away convinced that wood can really lend itself to contemporary and sustainable design projects.
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Notes to Editor:
American Hardwood Export Council
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is the leading international trade association for the US hardwood industry, representing the committed exporters among US hardwood companies and all the major US hardwood product trade associations. AHEC concentrates its efforts on providing architects, specifiers, designers and end-users with technical information on the range of species, products and sources of supply.
AHEC produces a full range of technical publications which are available free of charge by visiting www.americanhardwood.org or by faxing (44) 20 7626 4222.
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American Hardwood Export Council
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