Wooden architecture: Five buildings with a focus on sustainability

The trend towards sustainable, natural living manifests itself into one material: wood. It is currently an indispensable part of interior design and is also becoming increasingly popular among architects. The natural raw material is a real alternative to stone, steel and concrete for many reasons.

Flexible and ecological: wooden architecture offers many advantages

Wooden buildings were widespread in the Middle Ages but disappeared from the cityscape over time. Against the background of dwindling resources, the renewable natural raw material is returning to architecture.

Wood is available almost everywhere, which saves long transport routes, and it is also easy and flexible to use. With prefabricated timber constructions, builders can realise high-quality prefabricated buildings in a very short time, which offer ecological advantages thanks to modern insulation and façade systems. In addition, almost any design idea can be realised with wood, both for new buildings and renovation projects. These five exciting examples show that there are hardly any limits to timber architecture.

St Henry's Ecumenical Art Chapel: Artful Chapel as Landscape Sculpture

Between wooded hills and flat fields on the Finnish island of Hirvensalo, the architects of Sanaksenaho have embedded an extraordinary chapel in its surroundings. St Henry's Ecumenical Art Chapel was completed in 2005 after two years of construction and combines an art gallery and prayer room in one on an area of around 300 square metres.

With a copper-coloured surface, the building resembles a landscape sculpture that harmonises with the colour of the surrounding trees. The entire interior is designed in pinewood, giving the space a warm, inviting character. Spotlights illuminate the wooden architecture and emphasise the devotional atmosphere. While visitors can discover works of art on display in the back of the chapel, religious ceremonies take place in the front area.

Grotto Sauna: Futuristic sauna with a fantastic lake view

In the majestic setting of Lake Huron north of Toronto, the architectural firm Partisans has created an extraordinary retreat. Inspired by a grotto, a freestanding sauna blends into the large-scale rock formation on Georgian Bay and offers an unobstructed view from the sharp granite cliff to the horizon.

After countless material tests, the planners decided on cedar as the primary building material. This locally available wood species brought the best characteristics for the realisation of the unusual design due to its resistance to rot, the special aroma and the colourfulness.

Metropol Parasol: Wooden shade under the Spanish sun

The former market square of Seville remained unused for decades. In order to revitalise the urban centre, the Berlin building planner J. Mayer H. designed a kind of oversized sunroof for the old town. About 150 metres long, 75 metres wide and 28 metres high, the so-called Metropol Parasol presents itself with a curved surface that has become the city's new landmark. The five levels house different areas for tourists and locals. An archaeological museum in the basement displays excavation pieces from the Roman city of Hispalis.

Above this lie a 2,155-square-metre market hall, an event space, a restaurant and a viewing balcony open to the public with a panoramic view of Seville's old quarters.

The structure of the sunroof was made of laminated veneer panels arranged in a grid. A waterproof coating protects the wooden architecture from the weather while giving the roof a soft sheen. The arrangement of the wooden components and the abstract shape provide generous shade, making the Metropol Parasol a good place even on hot summer days.

Top things to do in Sevilla, Metropol Parasol. Source: YouTube / Urban Explorer

MuséoParc: Natural architecture in a historical setting

Alesia has an important place in the history of France. It was here that the Gauls lost the decisive battle against the Romans in 52 BC. Today, the MuséoParc commemorates the dramatic events and the sad hero Vercingetorix, who faced Julius Caesar as leader of the Gauls. The famous Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi provided the design for the symbolic building and clad the visitor centre with mighty larch wood beams.

Complementing the wooden architecture, which blends into the picturesque landscape of Burgundy, green planner Michel Desvigne designed the building's roof terrace with a wreath of birch and oak trees.

At some distance from the visitor centre, the archaeological museum rises from a hill. The homogeneous, circular shape of the building is intended to symbolise the encirclement of the Gauls. The double-shell rotunda with a diameter of 52 metres consists of a wooden structure on the outside, while on the inside there is a black-clad, partly glass façade.

French museum reveals Battle of Alesia secrets. Source: YouTube / AFP News Agency

Nine Bridges Country Club: Wooden architecture combines tradition and modernity

Near the South Korean capital Seoul, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has reinterpreted the country's traditional building style. The Nine Bridges golf course is a modern clubhouse complex which is divided into the main building, VIP lobby building, and a structure with private suites. While steel and concrete characterise the exterior of the VIP buildings, the clubhouse is surrounded by a striking wooden lattice construction. In the atrium, wooden columns support a transparent curtain wall that opens in circular recesses to the glass flat roof.

Whether cultural buildings, leisure facilities or monumental chapels: Wooden architecture has an astonishing number of facets and brings a piece of nature into our living spaces. Would you like some more inspiration? A modern wooden home with smart technology and a little black house on Lake Ammersee show how diversely wood can also be used in house construction. Take a look inside.

Do you like wooden architecture? Write to us if you know of any other modern wooden buildings.

Architecture Energy Efficiency Sustainability

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