19 November 2019

'Unique' Cork House takes Gold at this year's Wood Awards ceremony

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Cork House, a unique building built almost entirely from cork and timber, was the winner of winners at this year’s Wood Awards ceremony, taking home both the coveted Gold Award and the Private Award – but there was more awe-inspiring design among the victors. From the stunning birch-faced plywood lattice ceiling which replaced a destroyed roof in the 1890’s grade II* listed Battersea Arts Centre, to the fun Udon Stool named for the thick Japanese noodle it resembles – the winners captivated this year’s judges with outstanding design.


The Wood Awards winners were announced on 19 November at a ceremony held at Carpenters’ Hall, London, hosted by Priya Khanchandani, editor of Icon magazine.


TRADA is a dedicated sponsor of the Wood Awards and is always proud to celebrate and promote the outstanding design and craftsmanship shown by the winners. For information about past winners, or to find out about the 2020 call for entries, visit the Wood Awards website




Gold Award and Private Award winner – Cork House



Location: Eton
Architect: Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton
Client: Matthew Barnett Howland and Dido Milne
Structural engineer: Arup
Main contractor: Matthew Barnett Howland with M&P London Contractors Ltd
Joinery: Whyte & Wood
CNC machining of cork blocks: Wup Doodle
Internal joinery: Nic Rhode Furniture
Furniture: Tom Graham Workshop
Wood supplier: NFP Europe Ltd
Wood species: Portuguese cork oak, New Zealand pine, Estonian spruce, American/Canadian western red cedar, Austrian spruce and American white oak


Cork House is built almost entirely from cork and timber. Monolithic walls and corbelled roof pyramids are built with load-bearing expanded cork made from the bark of the cork oak tree, a by-product from wine stoppers. Conceived as a prefabricated kit-of-parts, blocks of expanded cork were CNC-machined off-site and then assembled on-site by hand without mortar or glue. All 1,268 pure cork blocks will be available at end-of-building-life as either biological or technical nutrients. A CLT floor platform, finished with oak floor boards, rests on Accoya beams supported on steel screw piles. Accoya is also used for the bespoke doors, windows and external steps. Western red cedar weatherboarding is used on the roof and rear façade. All internal built-in joinery and loose furniture is made from spruce. Internally, the exposed cork and timber create a rich, evocative, sensory environment.



Commercial & Leisure Award winner – Royal Opera House 'Open Up'



Location: London
Architect: Stanton Williams
Client: Royal Opera House
Structural engineers: Arup, Robert Bird Group
Main contractor: Swift Crafted Ltd
Joinery: Birmingham Veneers Ltd, TT Gillard, Thornell Veneers Ltd
Construction manager: Rise
Wood supplier: Missouri Walnut LLC
Veneer supplier: Reliance Veneer Co Ltd
Wood species: American black walnut


Striking the right balance between heritage and 21st century life, the transformation of the Royal Opera House reimagines the world-renowned home of ballet and opera. Improved access and transparency, a completely new Linbury Theatre and new foyers, terraces, cafes, bars, restaurant and retail facilities extend the building’s life outside of performance hours. At entrance level, subtle timber elements inlaid in the stone floor offer a warm welcome. Descending into the double-height Linbury Theatre foyer, the atmosphere becomes more intimate and theatrical as exquisitely book matched veneer surfaces are complemented by elegant linear grids of timber batons and solid wood parquet. The Linbury Theatre is entirely clad in black walnut, inspired by the rich cherry cladding in the main 1858 Opera House auditorium. Lights, acoustic insulation and sound equipment are integrated within the timber.



Education & Public Sector winner – Cambridge Central Mosque


Location: Cambridge
Architect: Marks Barfield Architects
Client: Cambridge Mosque Trust
Structural engineer: Price & Myers
Main contractor: Gilbert Ash
Joinery: The Deluxe Group
Wood supplier: Mayr-Melnhof Holz Reuthe GmbH
Timber frame engineer & installer: Blumer Lehmann
Project manager: Bidwells
Building services & sustainability consultant: Skelly & Couch
Wood species: European spruce, oak and mahogany


The first purpose-built mosque in Cambridge is a calm oasis of contemplation within a grove of trees, inspired by an image of the garden of paradise – with its water fountain symbolising the source of all life. Timber was chosen for its natural, warm and calming qualities. The expressed vaulted structure is glulam, while the surrounding wall and roof structure is CLT. The guiding geometry of the building is The Breath of the Compassionate, a historic Islamic pattern which evokes breathing in and out. Repeating star octagons are converted into a continuous structural pattern and projected onto the three-dimensional fan vaulting form. Alternate octagons are converted to the structural columns or ‘trunks’. The 30 trees create an overall impression of stillness, quiet and focus. 2746 pieces form the vaulted structure. Wherever possible metal connectors have been replaced with half lap joints for continuity of timber grain.



Interiors winner – Battersea Arts Centre



Location: London
Architect: Haworth Tompkins
Structural engineer: Heyne Tillett Steel
Main contractor: 8build
Lattice ceiling joinery: Joinery Fixing and Finishing Ltd
Wood supplier: IBL
Wood species: European poplar plywood with birch veneer face


Battersea Arts Centre is an 1890’s grade II* listed building. In March 2015, a fire broke out in the northern half of the building destroying the roof to the largest performance space. The original decorative plaster barrel vaulted ceiling was completely lost. Rather than replicating the lost ceiling, a contemporary plywood lattice ceiling was conceived. The new ceiling follows the curvature of the original and echoes the motifs in the plasterwork. It is much more porous and suitable for a modern theatre’s requirements. The new ceiling is constructed of three layers of 18mm thick birch-faced plywood. Many apertures provide multiple rigging and lighting positions from the technical walkway built into the roof space above. Hidden banners within the roof space provide a variety of acoustic options.



Small Project winner – MultiPly



Architect: Waugh Thistleton Architects
Client: American Hardwood Export Council
Structural engineer: Arup
Main contractor: Stage One
CLT panel manufacturer: Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC)
Lighting design: SEAM
Wood supplier: Glenalmond Timber Company
Wood species: American tulipwood


MultiPly is a carbon neutral engineered timber pavilion, made from hardwood CLT. The vertical maze of stacked modules and staircases creates labyrinthine spaces which intertwine, inviting people to explore the use of wood in architecture and reflect on how we build our homes and cities. MultiPly demonstrates how engineered timber structures can be reconfigured, reused, repurposed and ultimately recycled. The pavilion has been shown in three locations, each iteration taking a different form. The unassuming assembly of modules belies the engineering challenges created by the thinness of panels, significant cantilevers, and the complexity of designing a structure that can be reduced to a set of parts. MultiPly provided an opportunity to push the boundaries of CLT construction. Like a piece of flat-packed furniture, it arrives as a kit of parts and can be quietly assembled in under a week. MultiPly is the first structure made from UK manufactured CLT.



Structural Award winner – House in a Garden



Location: London
Architect: Gianni Botsford Architects
Structural engineer: Built Engineers
Main contractor: New Wave
Roof Structure: ZÜBLIN Timber GmbH
Joinery: New Wave
Stair manufacturer: SteelOne srl
Wood supplier: ZÜBLIN Timber GmbH and Dinesen
Landscape architect: Todd Longstaffe-Gowan
Wood species: European spruce, birch and Douglas fir


Replacing a dilapidated bungalow built in the 1960’s in the garden of an 1840’s villa, the house is on ground and two basement floors surrounded by gardens, light wells and skylights. The ground-floor, pavilion-like structure floats, creating distant views through gaps in the city skyline. Wood it used throughout the project: structurally for the roof; as wall, floor and ceiling linings; and for the floating staircase. The glulam structure is unique in terms of the double curvature and the slender section sizes. The roof curves to conclude in an oculus. Shaped and informed by light and shadow, the roof’s tent like form creates a new place for life to occur. Wood-lined ‘internal’ spaces (living rooms and bedrooms) are juxtaposed with marble-lined ‘external’ spaces (wet areas, pools and courtyards).



Bespoke Award winners – Littoral Chances 1&2 and the Kissing Benches


Littoral Chances 1&2



Designer/maker: David Gates
Vitreous enamel on steel panels: Helen Carnac
Wood supplier: Adamson & Low, English Woodland Timber and Timberline
Wood species: European oak, bog oak, ripple sycamore, Cedar of Lebanon and Douglas fir, American bird’s eye maple


This unmatched pair of collecting cabinets is based on the beauty of chance composition. Gates is drawn to industrial and agricultural architecture, including jetties and pylons, and the paraphernalia that populates these sites, such as containers and crates. Gates is often struck by the balance and beauty of chance compositions; how stacked and piled objects present themselves sculpturally. The timber has been sawn, scraped, planed, and cleft to emphasise the woods’ varying surfaces. The cabinets appear chaotic and improvised but are carefully made using adaptations of traditional construction techniques. The hand-shaped elliptical section of the legs echoes that of yacht masts, further extending the link to the estuary landscape.


The Kissing Benches



Designer/maker: Alison Crowther
Client/owner: Glyndebourne
Wood supplier: Neil Humphries
Timber conversion: Vastern Timber
Photography: Jacqui Hurst
Wood species: English oak


The Kissing Benches were made for the newly reinvented Figaro Garden at Glyndebourne. The garden required something that would complement and not draw attention away from the Henry Moore sculpture. These benches are a contemporary take on an old style of outdoor seating, designed to enable people to engage in conversation, embrace or kiss. Gigantic beam sections of green English oak have been hand-carved to create an ergonomic and attractive seat surface. The benches were hand-carved using traditional gouges and mallets.



Production Award winner – Ian McChesney Bench



Designer: Ian McChesney
Manufacturer: Benchmark
Wood supplier: PB Hardwoods and English Woodland Timber
Wood species: European oak or American Black Walnut


These highly crafted benches are made in two sizes. The gallery bench is designed to sit in the middle of a room and is 900mm deep to allow for sitting on both sides. The foyer bench is designed to sit at the edge of the room and is 600mm deep to allow for sitting on one side only. The gently pillowed top and bottom give the benches a very natural feel. They are carved initially on a 5 axis CNC machine and then assembled and finished by hand to create the elegant edge profile. They are finished with hand applied natural hard wax oils to keep the timber looking and feeling as natural as possible.



Student Designer winner – Bio Iridescent Sequin



Designer/maker: Elissa Brunato
University/college: Central Saint Martins, Material Futures
Bio-engineering wood/cellulose: Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), Hjalmar Granberg and Tiffany Abitbol
Wood species: Canadian softwood Kraft pulp


Bio Iridescent Sequin is a response to the unsustainable shimmering beads and sequins currently used in fashion and textiles. Brunato’s sequin uses bio-technologies to create colourful shimmering sequins from naturally abundant wood. Through extracting the crystalline form of cellulose, the wood imitates the alluring visual aesthetics of shiny plastic while remaining lightweight, strong and compostable. Brunato is working alongside material scientists Hjalmar Granberg and Tiffany Abitbol from RISE Research Institutes in Sweden.



Student Designer People’s Choice Award – Udon Stool



Designer: Anton Mikkonen
University/college: The Sir John Cass School of Art
Wood Species: Ash


As a young boy Mikkonen was fascinated by woodgrain and knots. He would look for knots near each other and create faces and other shapes. With the Udon Stool, Mikkonen has matched the uniqueness of woodgrain with a very unique aesthetic. The stool consists of five parts, all CNC routed with a 2D CNC machine. The holes for the legs were also cut out with the CNC router and the legs were then added by hand.