Heavy timber is making a come back, from way back.  From underground mines to industrial warehouses to Canadian log cabins, timber is a legacy material stoked with memory.  But, timber was stuck in its own architectural nostalgia.  Thankfully, the cabin has recently been unlocked by Scandinavian architects.  For their competition entry for the Kimball Art Center in Park City, UT, the powerhouse Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) ignores the straitjacket of convention to curve and contort timber as if it was plastic.  Watch for new expressive architecture to land close to home: like other Scandinavians, BIG is debuting their design prowess in Canada – for towers in both Vancouver and Toronto.

Proposed interior by BIG.  Where the combination of timber and glass warms the coldest hearts.

Norway-based for more than a decade, Canadian expat Todd Saunders treats architecture like monumental works of sculpture.  Even in the remote and beautifully rugged Fogo Island – a seven hour drive north-east of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Saunders is designing exhilarating works in timber.  Saunders grew up 100 kms away from Fogo Island in Gander, Nfld. so he speaks with an accent that is part Newfoundlander, part sing-song Norwegian.  His architecture is of, and beyond, the land. When I visited Joe Batt’s Arm, Fogo Island, I encountered his Artist’s Studio this way:  angled like the blade of a knife on the rocky landscape, with wild caribou trotting nearby, the wind beating back the grasses.

The Studio as well as a Writer’s Studio and a five-star Inn are all commissioned by the Shorefast Foundation and its tireless founder Zita Cobb, who hails from Joe Batt’s Arm.  The revitalization of Fogo Island through art and architecture belongs to her, Todd Saunders and the locals who believe in their future, with or without cod.

Even on Queen Street West in downtown Toronto, dark, heavy timber defines Bannock, the latest restaurant to be launched by Oliver & Bonacini.  The interior features pine and hemlock recovered from one of the Queen’s Wharfs submerged in Lake Ontario for the last century.    I caught this picture today while a flurry of snow swirled all around and a red TTC streetcar trundled by.

The recipe for bannock is easy…3 cups of flour, dash of salt, bigger dash of baking power, a few tbsp of butter and enough water to make it stick.  What’s important is the twisting of the dough around a solid, dry stick so that it doesn’t slip from the wood.  Leave it to roast on the stick over some hot coals, or a fire burning from something more minimal, like the stainless steel trough by Paloform – something that caught my eye today at the Interior Design Show.  Wait until the dough has baked enough to slide easily from the stick.  It’ll be golden, like cedar.


Brain coral, found on Coconut River Beach, once the site of a slave settlement in Nevis, a Caribbean island historically rich for its productive sugar plantations.

The random, organic pattern of a Favela in Medellin, Columbia.  Also known as a slum, or in polite academic circles, an informal settlement.