Wood at Architect@Work London 2016

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

This year's London ARCHITECT@WORK had chosen wood as its theme. To honor this beautiful material, London's SCIN GALLERY, Materials Library and Resource, presented a collection of wood curiosities called Growth Rings.

The exhibition examined the species of trees that give us the wood we use in architecture, it looked at the DNA of wood and its physiology.

Curator Annabelle Filer said, “We are delighted to have been asked to examine wood in this way. As a natural material it has so much depth to its uses and is so versatile. Our exhibition aims to explore this in an architectural context.”

Another exhibition was ROTUNDA SEROTINA

RotSerotNewThe American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) partnered with designers Kolman Boye and furniture-makers Benchmark to create a towering structure of food plates in a commission for Wallpaper* Handmade 2015 called the Rotunda Serotina.

ARCHITECT@WORK was the UK debut of the three-storey 'general store' and it played very much to the wood theme for this edition. The Danish/Swedish architects Kolman Boye were invited by Wallpaper* to design a candy-store concept piece for serving food during Wallpaper* Handmade in Milan.

Wallpaper* teamed up the designers with Benchmark, a company which has almost unparalleled knowledge of wood, to build the structure in collaboration with the American Hardwood Export Council. The Rotunda is constructed of American cherry and maple.

The vast columns of shelves are arranged in a cylindrical shape so that a single ladder can slide around inside the structure to scale every shelf. Each shelf in the Rotunda holds rows of cherry- wood snack trays that visitors can take home as limited-edition samples from the exhibit.

For visitors not used to seeing the striking pale-pinkish red timber, the emergence of the Rotunda Serotina will be a revelation. Gone are the traditional reddish, highly lacquered connotations of cherry. The contemporary porous appearance of the wood fits in beautifully with the current vogue for raw, rugged timber.

As a forester, and as a journalists, I have somewhat a problem with the statement on their literature which said that the wood used in the structure and for the plates did take just 40 seconds to grow. While this is to indicate that the American forests grow in those 40 seconds that among of the wood the particular wood used would have taken a great deal longer, many decades in fact, to grow. Statements that could be misleading should vest be avoided when trying to teach the public about wood (or anything for that matter).

On the other hand the structure, and the food plates, were rather interesting and the structure very much due to its construction, with wooden pegs, apparently, used.

Another of the exhibitors that caught my attention was Mehling & Wiesmann GmbH from Germany who are making beautiful veneer from spalted, sometimes also called spalded, Beech. This they call Trüffelbuche or Truffle Beech. Spalting, which is the more common spelling, is caused by fungi and thus is a use of almost dead wood, wood that more often than not would, if not left in the forest, where dead wood, or deadwood, has its uses for wildlife, no doubt, be burned on other occasions. A way to realy use most if not all of the wood that comes our way.

Considering, however, that wood, and I would have guessed natural wood, was the theme of this show having only around, as far as I could see, six or, maybe seven, exhibitors out of ninety that actually dealt with this to say that it was slightly misleading would be, in my view, an understatement.

© 2016