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The Forest As - A Speculation on a Contemporary Revival of a Swedish Timber Architecture

2018

 

Sweden is a country dominated by forests. With two thirds of country forested, towering firs and spruces, some rising 40m tall, define the landscape and capture the imagination. Moreover, timber once also defined the architecture of this region, both urban and rural, and the forestry industry forms a cornerstone in the Swedish economy. With harvest rotations of the Sweden forests ranging between 35 to 150 years, forests are long lived in relation to human time scales. As such, changes in these forests can have a large impact on both society, ecology and the environment. However, even the longest forestry rotations are only a fraction in relation to any geological timescale, such as the time it takes for the Earth to renew its resources used for producing construction materials such as concrete and steel. Timber is thus the only widely used building material today that can be considered truly renewable and sustainable.

 

Situating the investigation within a Swedish context in historical, environmental, cultural and social terms, this thesis will argue that the Swedish building industry should be refocused onto timber construction technologies for reasons of sustainability, environmentalism and the collective Swedish psyche. Drawing from both traditional construction methods as well as discussing new possibilities arising with developments in computer-aided manufacturing technologies, this thesis discusses the potential for a revived and renewed timber architecture that once again embodies timber as a building material and its use according to its natural, unique and complex properties. 

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Adopting a holistic approach to architecture, The Forest As is used throughout the thesis both in its literal sense and as a concept, to speculate on the possibility for a revived Swedish timber architecture from both historical, theoretical, environmental, cultural and social perspectives.

The Forest as Landscape. Considering the forest as landscape, the social impact of an expanded forestry industry and a revived urban timber architecture is discussed as a path towards a more symbiotic relationship between the urban and the rural regions of Sweden.

 

The Forest as Material. Investigating wood as a construction material and its use historically in the production of architecture, the forest as material discusses new possibilities arising with developments in computer-aided manufacturing technologies, and the potential for a revived and renewed timber architecture that once again celebrates and utilises the natural, unique and complex properties of wood.

The Forest as Space. The forest as space discusses the relationship between natural space and architectonic space through three key spatial conditions of the forest, defined as thicket, edge and clearing.

The Forest as Structure. This relationship is thereafter further interrogated through speculative proposal of three corresponding timber structures which question to what extent it might be possible to make a large-scale urban building using only un-engieered wood, and what structural possibilities and/or limitations this might have. The spatial condition of the forest edge is explored through the proposal for a braced external structural framework that considers the use of un-engineered timber for the construction of a six-story tall building. The thicket is thereafter translated into the design for a bundled supporting column that investigates the structural potential of roundwood construction. The spatial condition of the forest clearing is lastly interrogated through the design of a timber roof that structurally investigates techniques of spanning large distances using only standardised sections and lengths of wood.

The Forest as Lifecycle. Finally, taking the unique lifecycle and environmental potential of timber as a fully carbon neutral material into consideration, the concept of the forest as lifecycle is used to adopt a holistic approach to construction by designing and planning for the buildings further end-of-life scenario.

The Forest As. Using the forest as a question to speculate on a proposal for a revived and renewed timber architecture that aims to emanate from the particular character and atmosphere of the Swedish forests, this thesis will argue that even when reliant on modern industrial methods, Sweden’s recent timber architecture should continue to draw upon primitive memories of the forest.

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