For only the second time in the past 12 years, NELMA participated with an exhibit at the National Convention of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), held June 26-28 in Chicago. This event was the second Softwood Lumber Board (SLB) sponsored activity for the North American industry’s “appearance” type wood products, defined as interior pattern products, exterior siding, and outdoor decking (JLC Live in Providence in March was the first SLB-sponsored event).
An estimated 17,000 architects and design professionals attended the AIA Convention. The format of the event is centered on providing continuing education to attendees with designated hours for exploration of the trade show floor. More than 375 seminars, workshops, demonstrations, and architectural tours are available to participants, all with varying assigned continuing education credits.
Housed under the “Wood Pavilion” banner on the convention floor, NELMA joined two other softwood product trade associations, each with 10’x10’ spaces (Southern Forest Products Association and Western Wood Products Association) within the designated area, which also included wood product manufacturers. Supporting the overall use of softwood lumber products, the larger SLB-sponsored reThink Wood exhibit neighbored the all-wood sector of the exhibit floor. Around 800 total exhibitors took part in the Convention, with other non-wood materials commanding joint spaces, such as concrete, composite, and the metal industries.
“One look around the exhibit floor and it becomes quite clear that today’s architects are being bombarded with replacement
products for what typically are wood product applications,” cited Jeff Easterling, President of NELMA. “It becomes our job to showcase and convince these important design professionals that wood products are the most sustainable and versatile building material choice today that automatically come with historical relevance and confidence.”
The most popular market-support item provided by NELMA at the exhibit was the Eastern White Pine Grades “Swatch” along with the EWP Patterns booklet, both highly-useful specification pieces for this important building design audience, according to Jeff. “The White Pine Monograph Series continues to gain interest and subscriptions from architects as they seek design ideas both from contemporary and historical applications.”
Criss-crossing slats, geometric assemblages of beams and latticework that lets in natural light and affords filtered views of the landscape are among the unexpected ways in which famed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma uses the timeless material of wood. Approaching architecture from a gardener’s perspective, Kuma takes issue with designers who seem to be “forcing their compositions onto nature,” setting out to work with it organically instead.
Kuma has produced some of the world’s most striking timber structures, including the Besançon Art Center and Cité de la Musique in France with its checkered composition of wood and glass (below), and the nest-like Sunny Hills, a facade for a dessert shop.
Working with smaller pieces of wood makes these designs more complex than conventional wooden structures, producing a softer effect that pulls in both the Japanese tradition of weaving and the country’s ancient joinery techniques.
For example, Kuma’s Starbucks (pictured top) – located adjacent to one of Japan’s most-visited shrines – is made of 2,000 poles that are woven together diagonally to create a sense of direction and fluidity. With this artistic approach, there’s no way to avoid staring up at the wooden structure and marveling at its beauty.
Architects and builders looking for fresh inspiration in creating beautiful modern structures out of wood should take a look at the career of Gion A. Caminada, a Swiss architect who has focused his life’s work on the village of Vrin in his native region. Caminada uses wood (particularly pine) in unexpected new ways, inside and out, pairing the local tradition with modern aesthetics.
The architect’s focus lies in exploring how older methods of construction can be transformed for new uses to meet the needs of the present. Swiss alpine tradition is married with a sense of minimalism that perfectly spotlights the beauty of the wood that serves as a primary material for residences, hotels, community centers, observation towers and more. Caminada’s work runs the gamut from grand halls to humble cow sheds.
This focus goes beyond construction techniques, translating common elements of historical structures in new ways. For example, at a girls’ boarding school in Disentis, Switzerland, Caminada built faceted wooden ‘cuddle corners’ for social congregation, modeled after the benches traditionally built around large stoves in Swiss peasant homes.
It would be cool to see this combination of local tradition and modern architecture translated in different areas of the world, including the Northeast United States, where a rich history of wooden architecture has its own, very particular personality.
Eastern White Pine Swatch Book
This unique informational marketing item takes on the look and size of a paint swatch, utilizing the same high-quality images utilized in the Eastern White Pine photo sheets for the 5 primary grades. The format provides an easy way to compare the characteristic differences between grades, with a summary of basic grade information also ncluded. Measuring 1-3/4″ x 8″, this compact tool is a great reference piece for architects, designers, lumber retailers and wholesalers.
To order your own copies visit NELMA’s Publication Store.