31 July 2019

A day out with Champion Timber: Momentto’s visit

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Champion Timber went one step further following its sponsorship of an installation at Oxo Tower Wharf for London Festival of Architecture, for which it supplied Momentto – architecture graduates Jennifer Ge (The Bartlett/UCL), Binhan Wang (Architectural Association’s School of Architecture), Yue Ying (University of Cambridge), Mandy Hong (University of Nottingham) and Jiaxin Wu (University of Sheffield) – with timber, including Champion Premier grade U/S PAR redwood, C24 graded and treated whitewood, and yellow balau profiled sections, plus fixings.


In June, Momentto and Public Works were given an exclusive tour, organised by TRADA’s Tabitha Binding, of Champion Timber’s Edenbridge depot. Talks by Operations Director David Lincoln, Production Director Martin Saunders and Sales Director Terry McDermott, along with a visit of the production facility and sales area, led to many questions from both sides.


Champion Timber has 10 branches across the South East and is the region's leading independent timber specialist with over 90 years’ experience supplying the building trade. It is dedicated to providing customers with quality softwoods and hardwoods. Trees grow differently in different climates and regions which leads to different grades of timber, suitable for different purposes. So when it comes to premier softwood mouldings, which Champion specialises in, the timber is slow grown dense pine (redwood) from Finland with fewer knots, kiln dried to an appropriate moisture content and machined at Edenbridge at the correct speed, to give super smooth finishes. The quality control at each stage is undertaken by knowledgeable trained staff so that the products sent to customers will perform as intended.


Customers and specifiers often don’t know which timber product they require – which is why Champion is keen to interact with the next generation of architects, designers, carpenters and engineers, future proofing our next generation of professionals.


Champion Timber’s Terry McDermott said: ‘By interacting with students we are investing in our future clients, enabling them to see, handle and smell all types of wood, which leads to a better understanding of timber and timber products. After half a day with us, they leave talking about timber species, moisture content, durability and quality – no longer seeing wood as just “wood”.’


Momentto’s Binhan Wang studied for his part 1 architectural degree at the University of Nottingham’s Chinese campus in Ningbo before his final semester in the UK. He was really struck by timber’s sustainability, commenting: ‘I didn’t understand the growing cycle of trees, how they are managed as a crop and lock in carbon, plus how timber can be also be reused and recycled. This is the first time I have worked at scale – the installation was so much bigger than I imagined it when I designed it on the computer. Learning has shown me that you do need to see and handle the materials that you design with – it must not be “just on paper”.’


Jennifer also studied for her part 1 at the University of Nottingham and is currently at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture for her part 2. She shared: ‘We wanted to design in timber after Mandy had been to ‘Hello Wood’ in Hungary, and we couldn’t have done this without TRADA and Champion Timber. Champion loves timber and was so happy to share its knowledge with us, explaining all the details that, as architects, we need to know. Champion thinks of everything – the amount of knots, growth rate of timber, moisture content, machining speed, even details like the radiuses and glue grooves they machine on the back of skirting boards. It’s not only timber we learnt about but also specifying, project management, building a team and growing a network. Tabitha introduced us to Mike, a student from the Building Crafts College, who made the installation and Hester, of Public Works, who reused the timber. Kee, our engineer, and his colleagues embraced the timber challenge too – a previous engineer had wanted us to build in metal which we didn’t want to do.’


After a month on site at Oxo Tower Wharf, the Momentto installation was dismantled by Jennifer, Mike, Hester, Carlotta (also of Public Works) and Tabitha, and moved to Poplar where 20 students reused it to design and construct with wood at the Public Works ‘Performing Togetherness’ summer workshop at R-Urban, Poplar, London.


Read more about the Momentto installation


Interested in getting involved with our University Engagement Programme? Contact Tabitha Binding on tbinding@trada.co.uk