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The best wood buildings of 2022

From the Stirling Prize to Abba Voyage to a revived sea swimming pool, wood has played a starring role in a multitude of award-winning buildings in 2022. Here are a few that took our fancy, illustrating just how wonderfully versatile wood can be.

Let’s start at the top with the New Library at Magdalene College (see main image), the winner of the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize. Cambridge University wanted a modern building with a 400-year design life that would sit comfortably next to its 700-year-old neighbour. Wood dominates Niall McLaughlin Architects’ design with cross-laminated timber (CLT) made from spruce spanning between brick chimneys and oak bookcases and floors throughout. Vaulted lantern skylights provide natural light and the building is naturally ventilated too.

Sands End Community College exterior

Sands End Arts & Community Centre was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize and boasts a raft of other awards including the RIBA London Award 2022, RIBA London Building of the Year Award 2022 and RIBA National Award 2022. Designed by for Hammersmith and Fulham Council, the centre comprises a collection of pavilions around an existing lodge which was refurbished as part of the project. The pavilions’ distinctive monopitch roofs have been constructed with CLT and glulam, complemented by green-stained panelling internally, creating welcoming spaces which sit happily in their location next to the park.

Moxon Studio

Meanwhile, this year’s Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award went to Moxon Architects for their ‘highly sustainable’ Quarry Studios project with a focus on regeneration. Constructed from panels of interlocking Douglas fir, and nestled within the national park in Aberdeenshire, the winning building hosts a community café and the practice’s Scottish headquarters.

Abba Arena Exterior

Next, here’s one for you Dancing Queens: a trip to the ABBA Arena in East London, where we can admire both Swedish music and Swedish principles at the world’s largest demountable concert venue. Stufish really pulled out all the timber stops on this one which is the winner of the 2022 Wood Awards. The four-storey, demountable seating area is made of cross-laminated panels, the exterior rainscreen is larch, the central concourse has a hybrid spruce glulam and steel canopy while 24 hexagonal glulam structures combine to form the roof structure. Voulez-Vous?

Lyon and Co House

With a brief to ‘bring the outside in’, Lloyn & Co designed a sustainable, energy efficient home that sits sympathetically among pine trees on a sloping coastal site in Swansea and which won a Royal Society of Architects Wales award this year. Clad in silver-grey Kebony wood, the building’s structure is timber frame with parallel chord trusses and steel beams where required. An internal garden within a three-storey atrium is home to palms and other small trees. Gorgeous inside and out, its owners report that the house makes them feel “happy every day”.

Innovation District Homes

From the lone Swansea retreat we turn to Leeds’ Citu, the Climate Innovation District.  Designed by White Arkitekter, Citu is the winner of the Structural Timber Awards’ Timber Frame Project of the Year – as well as many others – and will eventually see the creation of 1,000 low-carbon homes with the help of an on-site manufacturing plant. Regenerating a brownfield site in the city centre, on both banks of the River Aire, the scheme could be a blueprint for breathing new life into disused industrial plots.

Cullinan Alderhey Entrance

Cullinan Studio used timber extensively inside and out for two new buildings, the Sunflower House and the Catkin Centre, in the grounds of Alder Hey Childrens Hospital in Liverpool which together aim to provide a joined-up approach to mental and physical health. The winner of the Healthcare Project of the Year at the Structural Timber Awards uses timber internally for its biophilic wellbeing properties, with the design team working hard to demonstrate that exposed timber could work practically in a clinical setting.

Lockerbie Sawmill Exterior

How fitting that Lockerbie Sawmill, a showcase for Scotland’s timber industry, won the Architecture and Wood categories, at the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland’s (RIAS’s) 2022 Awards. Structurally Koshni Gaffney deployed glulam and structural timber joists as well as an unprocessed tree trunk internally as a pillar. The visitor centre and office building for James Jones and Sons’, with views over the company’s timber yard, is clad in Scottish larch with Douglas fir and oak featuring internally.

Jubilee Pool

This is a bit of a curve ball, but Scott Whitby Studio’s reinvention of the UK’s first geothermal seawater lido in Penzance, Jubilee Pool, caught our eye. The roof structure of the extended café and new community hall is made from salt-resistant Douglas fir to withstand the harsh coastal environment, with an undulating wave-like form which mimics the pool’s logo. It was the public vote winner for rebirth project of the year in the Dezeen Awards. With the project funded by local people, Scott Whitby’s favourite comment came from a local who told him: “It’s very Penzance; it feels like it’s of its place, not trying to be something else.”

The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia

A fitting final choice for our roll of wood-fuelled winners is The Enterprise Centre, University of East Anglia in Norwich which this year won the British Council of Offices’ (BCO) Test of Time award. The Passivhaus building, which was crowned Best of the Best at the BCO’s 2016 awards, is a demonstration of sustainable design from Architype, using natural materials that were sourced locally where possible including timber from Thetford Forest. With a glulam timber frame, the building, which was created to nurture start-ups and SMEs, features timber extensively inside too.

Haut timber towers

Although our search for inspiring winners was largely limited to UK-based projects, we couldn’t help a brief foray overseas to imagine the sort of projects that could have been winning awards here, were blanket regulations relating to timber in taller buildings not quite so restraining. In Amsterdam, the HAUT, a 21-floor residential development designed by Team V Architects, won the Dutch Timber Construction Awards. And the in US, where many states are really embracing the possibilities of engineered timber, 1 De Haro, a four-storey office designed by Perkins&Will, is San Francisco’s first CLT building and California’s first multi-storey mass timber building. And it was a winner of a Wood Design Award.

Congratulation to all these winners – and all the winners we didn’t have space to talk about this time. Wonderful, wooderful inspiration to take us into 2023.

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