Every year when we sum up the Wood Awards, we tend to say how extraordinary the year has been. Well that’s true now, but for so many unwelcome reasons. Nevertheless, I am pleased to report that your dedicated team of judges refused to bow down, and went ahead, albeit slightly differently. At least one member of the judging panel visited every building, and video footage was taken of each one, thanks to efficient project management. The shortlist, and the number of judges, were slightly reduced in number, but we succeeded in our mission to save the Wood Awards, where other competitions have failed.
As ever the range of entries was very wide, from the smallest of interiors to what is claimed to be the largest timber roof in Europe. It is certainly very large, and the structure very compelling, but of real interest is the choice of this material in a building serving the aims of the automotive industry, not noted for its use of wood. By contrast the rebuilding of a huge barn more than 600 years old, due to a disastrous fire, showcases that carpentry skills from mediaeval times are still with us and worthy of recognition.
Other highlights of the year were a good range of private houses, and some quirky little projects including a café seemingly in a railway carriage, a sculpture disguised as a haystack, and a multicoloured pavilion which has now been recycled to make garden and playground furniture! But they are all made of wood and all count. We were also impressed with a staircase which pioneers the use of BIM modelling for small scale joinery as well as entire houses.
Our winner of winners is well deserved, showing what could be a future direction for sustainable timber housing, with rigorous material specifications and high performance. It is good to see that CLT spruce panels can be used imaginatively to create comfortable living spaces without being a series of wooden boxes. All the judges liked the message this sends to the architectural community.
This is my last year as chair of the judging panel, and I’m sorry to be leaving, but be assured the Wood Awards will continue in safe hands.
In what has proven to be a very strange year, it’s good to have seen such strong work entered for the Wood Awards. However given that life was particularly hard for students, who had had relatively little face to face teaching or practical help, this year we decided to suspend the student category.
The judges represent the wide spectrum of interests in wood, between them having considerable experience of using the material, developing its potential, teaching students, curating shows that include wood and writing about it. Designer/maker Sebastian Cox of the pioneering eponymous company, Yael Mer of leading design practice, Raw Edges, maker and lecturer Rod Wales, maker Eleanor Lakelin and editor of Disegno, Oli Stratford have now melded into a formidable panel. This year we had fewer ornate, mannered projects to consider and felt that gradually standards are improving. We were all delighted with the quality of the final shortlist, despite the fact that it made making the final decisions more difficult to make.
In the bespoke category the importance of a patron was key. Clearly AHEC’s continued encouragement of designers to think in the widest terms about wood, yielded results, with several shortlisted candidates having worked on projects seeded by them. The extraordinary breadth of thinking on wood is highlighted in this category, where the judges decided to select joint winners. Marlène Huissoud’s Beehave for Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum is based on research into disappearing habitats for wild bees. Her log-like hive in hand-carved, blackened red oak, is a not only a piece of sculpture, but a genuine refuge for endangered wildlife. Terence Woodgate’s elegant, refined, Duo sofas for Alex Beard, CBE, Chief Executive of The Royal Opera House, are functional sofas made from solid timber, with arms shaped on a 5-axis CNC machine, yet are supremely sculptural and seem almost to float.
Competition was also robust in the production category. Last year we bemoaned the fact that manufacturers lag behind the public’s appreciation of wood, this year the field was much stronger. The ultimate winner The Tenon Table by Daniel Scholfield for Ercolani is a pleasing, simple table combining wood turning and CNC production to create a well-priced extremely commercial and accessible set of tables. We hope it presages more good submissions for 2021.
The Rye Apartments
Winner: Frindsbury Manor Barn
Highly commended: The Handlebar Cafe
Shortlisted: National Automotive Innovation Centre
Winner: Swimming Pool Hall at King's College School
Highly commended: Stroud Christian Community Chapel
Shortlisted: Hurstpierpoint Performing Arts Centre, HarrisAcademy
Winner: Brockeridge Stair
Highly commended: Two and a Half Storey House
Shortlisted: The Den
Winner: The Rye Apartments
Highly commended: Redhill Barn
Shortlisted: Bumpers Oast, HOUSE FOR THEO + OSKAR
Winner: Wooden Roof
Highly commended: Dulwich Pavilion 2019
Winner: National Automotive Innovation Centre
Shortlisted: Stroud Christian Community Chapel, Hurstpierpoint Performing Arts Centre, Redhill Barn, HOUSE FOR THEO + OSKAR
Winners: The Beehave, Duo
Shortlisted: Serpentine Postbox, Semi Synthetic Series
Winner: Tenon Table
Highly commended: Bundle Trestle
Shortlisted: VWork Collection, Chamfer Dining Table, Barking Up The Wrong Log