April 21, 2016 / Luxury Lifestyle

Timber Land

Man has always used wood to build basic shelters and homes, but, as a new book demonstrates, constructing with this most natural of materials today is anything but humble


As architects “go beyond” modernism and minimalism, they are exploring the benefits of wood, not just as a green resource, but a pliable material that lasts and lasts. A new, two-volume survey 100 Contemporary Wood Buildings showcases the wonder of wood as a building material for the 21st century and features some of the most impressive wooden architecture from around the globe, from cabin retreats to huge municipal buildings.

Here, we select five of the best:

Alésia Museum and Archeological Park, Alésia, France 2003-12, architect Bernard Tschumi
This building – located on an archaeological site in central France – commemorates a battle between Julius Caesar and the Gauls in 52BC. The partially buried circular museum is located on a hilltop, allowing visitors to survey the site which remains much as it was 2,000 years ago, and the museum’s designers have recreated battlements and earthworks as they may have existed at the time of the battle. The separate visitor center, the wooden building shown here, is set nearly a kilometer away, close to the position the Romans occupied, and as the architects explain: “The roof of the round building is a garden planted with trees and grass, camouflaging the presence of the building when seen from the town above.”

Banner image: The Metropol Parasol at La Encarnación square, in the old quarter of Seville, Spain, designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer. Photograph: Fernando Alda. Above image:  The ornate herringbone wooden exterior of the Alésia Museum and Archaeological Park's visitor's center was designed by Bernard Tschumi Architects. Photograph: Iwan Baan Canteen at the City of Culture of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 2010, Estudio Nômada
This project is sited within two structures next to the Galician Archives, part of Peter Eisenman’s City of Culture of Galicia. The architects broke through pre-existing walls to link a café and a shop with one long, shared bar, which they hoped would recall Galician village canteens. Treelike wooden frames rise above the tables of the café – the architects opted for these structures because they wanted to “evoke popular festivities” and remind diners of eating outdoors.

The idea of the tree-like structures was to "evoke…gatherings of people during rural summer festivities," says Enrique de Santiago of Estudio Nômada architects, designers of the canteen at the City of Culture of Galicia. Photograph: Héctor Santos Díes/BisimagesHouse 11x11, near Munich, Germany, 2010-11, Titus Bernhard Architekten
The exterior walls and roof of this box-like home were made with prefabricated elements clad with a vertical wood-lamella façade that converges on the roof. Window and door frames are cleverly incorporated into the pattern, making them appear almost open – only the reflections in the glass proving they are glazed. The ground floor of the home is open-plan. The architect notes: “The idea behind House 11x11 was to design an apparently compact house of homogenous materials, with a low external profile but as large a usable area as possible.”

House 11x11, designed by Titus Bernhard Architekten, is clad in vertical laminated wooden slats that extend to the roof, and the same material is used to frame the windows, which bend over eaves and wrap around corners. Photograph: Jens Weber, MunichCentre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, France, 2006-2010, architect Shigeru Ban
Shigeru Ban Architects (Tokyo) won the design competition to build a new Centre Pompidou in Metz in 2003 – working in association with Philip Gumuchdjian (London) and Jean de Gastines (Paris). The most striking element of the design is the intricate woven timber roof, inspired by a Chinese hat found in Paris by the Tokyo architect, which becomes translucent in the evening when lights are turned on. Within, the architect suspended a series of “tubes” in order to create the Grande Nef (nave) and forum spaces.

The roof of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, designed by Shigeru Ban, is made up of nearly 10 miles of laminated timber that forms hexagonal shapes made to resemble the pattern of a Chinese hat. Photograph: Didier Boy de la TourCasa Granero, Pucon, Chile, 2004, architect Cazú Zegers
With its enveloping wooden plank “skin”, this barnlike home blends effortlessly into the surrounding nature. “It does not impose, but incorporates itself with the traditional type of construction typical of southern Chile,” says the architect, who wanted to create a contemporary take on traditional agricultural buildings. The interior of Casa Granero (Barn House) is also made entirely of wood with a staircase and mezzanine partially occupying the double-height space.

Casa Granero, created by architect Cazú Zegers, is a modern reinterpretation of a traditional Chilean barn house and was designed to harmonise with the surrounding landscape. Photograph: Guy Wenborne

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