great expectations for wood

E'Terra Samara Tree House Villa_image 2I’m flying across Canada this week to speak at the Wood Design Awards at the new green-roofed Convention Centre in Vancouver. My theme? It’s time to embrace wood as the building material of the 21st century. Too many of the world’s carbon emissions come from the manufacture of concrete and steel. (The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that for every 10 kilos of cement created, six to nine kilos of CO2 are produced.)  Wood speaks to our minds and our hearts, like this tree house  delicately suspended by cables without any tree-damaging nails.  Lyrically designed by Farrow Partnership Architects for the 5-star E’Terra eco-resort located in the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, near Tobermory, Ontario.
E'Terra Samara Tree House Villa_image 1Wood satisfies our deep, ancestral connection to nature’s beauty, which has been traced back to the magnificent acacia tree with its complex fractal geometry in the African Savannah.
Wood is the most ancient building material.  But construction methods have stayed relatively primitive.  This is the log home built by my great grandparents, Barney and Sarah Griffith when they left Minnesotta and travelled on the C.P.R. to homestead in Saskatchewan.  That was back in the late 1800s.   That idea of basic wood construction (2 X 4 wood frame construction) still dominates the housing sector.
Standing underneath the vaulted ceiling in our upstairs living room feels a lot like being suspended below a canoe.  Actually, oak flooring was applied piece by piece (by a patient and talented architect turned craftsman) to the ceiling – one member at a time – much like the construction method used by my great grandparents.
It’s time to modernize the  wood building industry.   Cross-laminated timber can give plenty of structural muscle to civic and commercial architecture.  Designed by Montreal’s Saucier + Perrotte architectes this soccer field celebrates the power of wood architecture – and points to the future of spirit-warming, eco-friendly wood.
Stories_aaltoileva_sisakatto_11847Expect wood architecture – even all-wood towers – to start splashing out around the world.  This free-wheeling atrium is part of Wood City, an all-wood development sited on a former cargo harbour in Helsinki, Finland.  The client is the forest company Stora Enso;  Anttinen Oiva Architects are the competition-winning designers.  Looks like being inside the belly of a whale.  Or a canoe.
  1. Frank r. smith said:

    Lisa, as always, beautiful images. Fundamentally, you are arguing for biomimicry. Is it possible, i wonder to reverse the recent trend to ignore wood for window construction? – the only available alternatives seem to be vinyl (PVC) or fibreglass framing. The former is terrible from a long-term viability perspective – the latter i’m not so sure about.

  2. How ironic that you’re talking about beautiful wood buildings. I just finished watching John Hardy’s Green School TED talk… again. His bamboo school is divine. Can bamboo be that strong? It’s unbelievable. And now I’m dreaming of Tobermory as well. Have fun in Vancouver! Will your speech be broadcast/streamed? Maybe keep your iPhone on and record it for us.

  3. Meaningful and worthwhile topic! So excited about your address to the conference. Hopefully you will share with the masses. We lived in an architecturally designed white pine log home with dove tail corners north of Thunder Bay.It was likely close to your great gandparents residence in Minn. We enjoyed the personality of the log walls constantly adjusting to accommodate our changing environment. Along with the vaulted ceilings and sky lights we had comfort and beauty that would be difficult to match.
    Also in the same area we were able to experience white pine at Greenwood Lake Old Growth Forest. To walk under the soaring canopy of 350 + year old trees is a most rewarding treat!
    Best regards,

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