A year of timber design and innovation

The 2023 Wood Awards showcased stunning timber projects from across the UK. With entries for 2024 now open, we look back at the winners from last year’s competition.


The winners of the 2023 Wood Awards stand as testament to the thriving creativity and ingenuity within the timber community. 

This year, the number of submissions reached new heights, showcasing not only quantity but a remarkable standard of creativity. From the Gold Award and Education & Public Sector winner, the New Temple Complex by James Gorst Architects, to the Production Made winner, The Exchange Tables & Chairs by Mentsen, each project told a unique story of innovation, sustainability, and masterful craftsmanship.

Gold Award Winner: New Temple Complex

With a celebration of natural materiality embedded in local history, the New Temple Complex in Hampshire is a forward-looking building characterised by peaceful simplicity.

Commissioned by The White Eagle Lodge, a multi-faith spiritual organisation, this new building seeks to welcome visitors from all faiths and all corners of the world. It comprises a temple, library, chapels, community hall, public foyer and kitchen, set within newly landscaped grounds.

A series of orthogonal timber-framed pavilions, connected by a cloistered walkway and facing onto a central courtyard garden, have been designed with passive principles and long-term sustainability in mind.

An ancient pathway runs beside the site, passing clay beds and chalk streams, following a Tudor route used to transport timber from ancient forests to the shipbuilding city of Portsmouth. Adopting a fabric-first approach, the building makes use of each of these materials: entirely timber framed, with facing clay brickwork set within chalk lime mortar, and lined in UK-grown ash and birch ply.

 

Restoration & Reuse: Westminster Hall Roof and Lantern

Architect: Donald Insall Associates;
Contractor: Mitie Projects;
Wood Supplier: Dolmen Conservation Carpenters;
Structural Engineer: Alan Baxter Ltd;
Image © Thomas Erskine

Over a three-year period, this heritage project in London has expertly conserved Westminster Hall’s exquisite medieval hammer beam roof and repaired its gothic roof lantern.

A Grade-I listed building within a World Heritage Site, Westminster Hall was originally completed in 1097 before being remodelled in the late 14th century into the gothic masterpiece it is known as today, with the addition of its magnificent hammer beam roof. With 13 660-ton timber arches, it was the largest spanning structure in Britain for 500 years.

The repair approach to the medieval trusses involved the skilled use of traditional carpentry methods and physical fixings to provide reversible and honest repairs to the structure.

Having been bomb-damaged in World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s, the lead-clad timber roof lantern was also re-detailed and repaired, using salvaged materials where possible, and requiring specialist carpentry work.

Research & Innovation: Field Station

Architect & Contractor: The Design + Make Programme;
Wood Supplier: Hooke Park;
Structural Engineer: ARUP,
Molineux Associates

Using crown timber, often dismissed as forest waste, this 100m2 multi-purpose pavilion at Hooke Park in Beaminster marries technical innovation with a deep respect for nature and demonstrates the potential of modern architecture to contribute positively to woodland management.

Developed by students from the AA’s Design + Make postgraduate programme, the woodland pavilion serves as an open-air laboratory for long-term ecological studies, creating an interactive space for the AA community and the public.

Mature beech, which grows in abundance in the 142-hectare woodland campus, was used for the pavilion’s primary structure – showcasing how this underused resource can be an effective construction material.

With engineers at ARUP, a structural logic was developed resulting in a distinctive space truss of beech roundwood braces within a dimensional ash grid. This innovative design allows a striking three metre cantilever on all sides.

By integrating computer visioning during robotic fabrication, the branch variations of the 256 roundwood braces could be adapted to in real-time. This innovation accommodates material eccentricities and shows how advanced manufacturing techniques can be harmonised with natural materials to create scalable architectural solutions.

Structural: Benenden School, Centenary Hall and Music School

Architect: Hollaway Studios
Contractor: Buxton Building Contractors
Wood Supplier: Acoustic GRG Products
Structural Engineer: Campbell Reith
Image © Hufton and Crow

By engineering timber to its fullest auditory potential, Benenden School’s world-class concert hall and music school buildings in Kent transform the musical and cultural education of the pupils and the local community.

The elliptically shaped timber-frame Centenary buildings include a 750-capacity concert hall, able to accommodate the entire school and host visiting musicians, and a 150-capacity recital room with adjacent classrooms and practice rooms, providing a welcoming space for students to rehearse.

Due to its form and materiality, the quality of sound performed in the entirely bespoke timber-lined hall is comparable with concert halls across the world.

Textured ‘flutterfree’ wood panels, plywood and veneer sheets are used throughout the building, putting acoustic quality at the forefront. A striking diagrid shaped roof serves as both a structural and acoustic device, allowing sound to bounce around the bays.

Sustainability; Commercial & Leisure: Black & White Building

Architect: Waugh Thistleton Architects
Contractor: Parkeray
Wood Supplier: Dolmen Conservation Carpenters
Structural Engineer: Eckersley O’Callaghan
Image © Jake Curtis

This landmark mass timber office complex sets a new standard for sustainable workspaces founded on low-carbon construction and circularity.

Standing 17.8 metres above Shoreditch on the site of a former timber-seasoning yard, The Black & White Building has a hybrid engineered timber superstructure comprising beech LVL frame with CLT slabs and core. The seven-storey, 4,480m2 building demonstrates that timber is not just a viable structural solution for office-building, but a preferable option for both performance and sustainability. The timber structure is expressed internally, celebrating timber’s natural beauty throughout.

Designed using circular-economy principles, MMCs and pioneering materials, the building demonstrates the positive impact these can have on performance, sustainability and efficiency in construction.

Small Project: The Boathouse

Architect: Ashworth Parkes Architects
Contractor: Enerphase Construction
Structural Engineer: Cambridge Architectural Research
Wood Supplier: National Trust Pentillie Estate
Joinery: Carpenter Oak

Built using Japanese carpentry techniques and no mechanical fixings, this larch boathouse sits elegantly on the bank of the River Cam.

To minimise its environmental impact, the building’s superstructure is made from English-grown larch and was carefully designed to avoid the use of glue, nails, or other fasteners. Instead, the timber members are notched and grooved, locking together to form a sturdy but flexible structure.

The lightweight walls are formed from removable screens set within the columns and held in place with timber pegs.

The pagoda-style curved roof is clad in recycled copper and the whole structure sits on a framework of ‘end of life’ scaffold poles hand driven into the riverbed.

The frame was crafted offsite in a carpentry workshop as a kit of relatively small parts that were then self-assembled by the client and friends.

Interiors: Dragon Flat

Architect: Tsuruta Architects
Main Contractor: Morgan Sindall Construction Timber
Subcontractor: KLH
Wood Supplier: SR Timber
Structural Engineer: Structures Lab
Image © Tim Crocker

AI-generated engravings adorn the timber wall panels and joinery of this refurbished 1950s council flat in London, bringing playful graphic detail to the renovated interior.

By subtly reconfiguring the layout and using wooden boards etched with delicate designs for the surfaces, this duplex flat has been transformed into a delightful and personal space.

The painstaking removal of non-load-bearing partitions on the lower floor allows the dual-aspect windows to fill the room with natural light. Structural height constraints led to a focus on surfaces and materials to enrich the space and draw attention away from the low ceiling.

Brass-clipped OSB boards are used as wallpaper for the tatami bedroom, paying homage to the humble beginnings of the flat. The panels were whitewashed before being CNC-etched with floral motifs, creating contrast for the designs to stand out.

Exquisitely detailed pale plywood defines the interior aesthetic, forming a walk-in wardrobe, raised tatami platform and wall-to-wall cabinets. A floating perforated timber stair is a striking feature that allows light to filter through.

 

Private: Spruce House and Studio

Architect: ao-ft
Contractor: PSS London
Wood Supplier: ConstruktCLT and Russwood
Structural Engineer: Entuitive
Image © Rory Gardiner

This contemporary domestic haven uses cross-laminated timber for its structure and interior finishing to create a beautiful, minimal home.

Built on a constrained infill site in Walthamstow, this newbuild home creates a contemporary interpretation of a residential shop front. A full-width window, broken down by full-height glulam mullions, references the alignment of neighbouring Victorian shopfronts. This is covered by a Siberian Larch screen providing privacy and allowing daylight to enter.

The functional and efficient design sought to minimise the carbon footprint through all aspects of construction. Custom-milled, prefabricated CLT panels were used to create open spaces within a narrow Victorian footprint, with built-in timber joinery concealing multiple function to allow seamless views.

 

Designer: Joanne Grogan
University/College: City & Guilds of London Art School

Student Designer: Rocaille Morphosis

This hand carved limewood mirror fuses rococo ornamentation with marine life structures.

Incorporating ideas from the student’s past as a fashion designer into their present practice as a woodcarver, this exquisitely crafted piece sought to explore contemporary interpretations of a historical theme.

Using traditional techniques throughout the design, application and finish, the artist merged designs from the Rococo period with shapes and textures from marine forms, including murex and spider conch shells.

Painstakingly sculpted over nine months, the form is carved from English limewood using a range of chisels. Each individual petal was hand carved, then embroidered using a drill bit and needle: a method called silk shading.

 

Production Made Furniture & Product: The Exchange Erith

Designer: Mentsen

A true achievement of sustainable, community-led design and production, these collapsible and stackable oak tables and chairs were made by local volunteers and staff at The Exchange Erith to be used for workshops and events.

As the tables and chairs would be made by local people, the design took into consideration the equipment and capability that would be at hand.

After an intensive four days of skill sharing, the wood workshop team at The Exchange Erith went on to produce 26 tables and are now in the process of making over 100 oak frame chairs with linen webbing seats.

This innovative approach addresses true sustainable practice: giving people the skills to make beautiful furniture using quality materials, and be able to fix it when broken.

 

Bespoke Furniture & Product: Serenade

Designer: John Makepeace OBE

Inspired by the hollowed out tree trunks once used to carry possessions, this bespoke oak chest houses the personal possessions of a less nomadic lifestyle.

Serenade has been made from a single tree of English oak – lovingly nurtured by generations of foresters since its planting in 1740 and felled in 1980.

The grain runs continuously around the form, matching at each junction and allowing the drawers and carcase to move in harmony with changes in humidity.

Lined in scented Lebanon cedar, the scorched oak drawers have central runners to minimise friction in use.

To learn more about the Wood Awards and to enter your project for the 2024 competition, visit www.woodawards.com