A new exhibition featuring the work of Irish and Estonian architects interrogates how wood is used in the construction industry, and whether it can be rethought
Curated collaboratively by Estonian practice b210 Architects and Irish practice Alder Architects, a new exhibition exploring wood as a construction material has opened at the Solstice arts centre in Navan, Ireland. Titled There is a forest in my backyard but my house is built from trees grown far away (Mu maja pole puudest, mis kasvavad kodu taga metsas), the exhibition is the result of a creative exchange between Estonia and Ireland called Wood Works, and has been organised by the Estonian Association of Architects, the Estonian Centre for Architecture and the Irish Architecture Foundation.
Featuring the collaborative work of five Irish and five Estonian practices – Creatomus Solutions, Hannigan Cooke Architects, Joseph Mackey Architects, Kaja Pae and Paco Ulman, OGU Architects, Peeter Pere Architects, Robert Bourke Architects, Ruumiringlus, Studio Kuidas, and Wrkshop – the exhibition explores the act of transformation across the life cycle of wood from extraction to transportation, standardisation to encapsulation and eventual disassembly for potential reuse.
It asks how the architecture and construction industries can learn from and be shaped by wood’s particular qualities, instead of ‘sacrificing a tree’s uniqueness’ for transportability, structural consistency and usability, thus treating it similarly to other inanimate materials.
One of the projects on show – Butterfly Building, a collaboration between Dublin-based practice Robert Bourke Architects and Tallinn-based modular building designer Creatomus – seeks to promote the use of locally sourced timber for small-scale buildings. ‘This process allows for the possibility of a circular approach to building, one which allows for assembly, disassembly and reuse,’ says Bourke. ‘We believe that this approach would re-engage people with the art of building and allow for citizens to play a hands-on role in tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis.’ The pavilion installation also houses a digital application which helps calculate the carbon footprint of a proposed house extension.
Among the other contributions, Peeter Pere Architects has created an acoustic installation evoking a forest, OGU Architects presents examples of informal timber construction which has developed in the backyards of Belfast, and Wrkshop proposes a structural system assembled from raw, untreated logs and standardised plywood joints.
As part of the Wood Works programme, a series of lectures and seminars has also been organised exploring the topic – from climate change to innovation in timber construction – as well as workshops for eco-friendly building with timber. On 29 January, the day of the exhibition opening, Pritzker Prize-winning Irish practice Grafton Architects is delivering a keynote lecture at Solstice.
There is a forest in my backyard but my house is built from trees grown far away is open at the Solstice arts centre from 29 January to 25 March 2022