Fresh Wood: Winning Designs from the 2021 AWFS Student Design Competition

Twenty-four woodworkers from 12 different high schools and colleges in the U.S. put their talent on display and won a range of honors and prizes at the 2021 AWFS Fresh Wood Competition, which wrapped up at the end of July. The winning projects included everything from a fun folding chair design to a finely crafted guitar, and from the look of the finalists, it must have been hard for the judges to choose.

Best in Show: Sideboard with a Void by Jinsoo Kim
Best in Show: Sideboard with a Void by Jinsoo Kim

The special theme for 2021 is “Remote Woodworking,” asking the entrants to show off what they built while learning remotely during 2020. Categories included seating, tables, case goods, Design for Production and an “anything goes” open category, and the competition judged high school and post-secondary school entries separately. Saying these students produced exemplary items is putting it mildly. Some of these projects are incredibly polished and wildly creative, and you’re going to want to check out every single one, but here are a few highlights.

Best in Show award went to Jinsoo Kim, a student at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, for an elegant table that also won First Place in the post-secondary Case Goods and Tables category of the competition.

The Nest by Mohammad Al-Yaseen
The Nest by Mohammad Al-Yaseen

Mohammed Al-Yaseen of Lincoln East High School won the People’s Choice Award for his high school project The Nest, an ergonomic chair that unfolds to cup a seated user and then folds completely flat.

Lumbarest by Josiah Miles
Lumbarest by Josiah Miles

A similarly functional flat-pack design netted First Place in the Design for Production – High School Category: the Lumbarest by Josiah Miles, also a student at Lincoln East High School.

Revolution Mirror by Susan Kokoski
Revolution Mirror by Susan Kokoski

How cool is this Modernist piece? The Revolution Mirror by Susan Kokoski of SUNY Buffalo State College received Second Place in the Open Category – Post Secondary.

Sundown Guitar by Katie Farnsworth
Sundown Guitar by Katie Farnsworth
Contemporary Table by Jacob Farnsworth
Contemporary Table by Jacob Farnsworth

It’s always amazing when high school woodworkers are able to put the rest of us to shame. Katie Farnsworth of Corner Canyon High School did just that with her Sundown guitar, which won First Place in the Open Category – High Schools, as did Jacob Farnsworth from the same school with Contemporary Table.

Abulafia Lectern by Dotan Appelbaum

The delicate, finely detailed nature of the Abulafia Lectern by Dotan Appelbaum of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship earned its creator First Place in the Open category – Post Secondary.

Winners of the 2021 U.S. Wood Design Awards

The winning projects of this year’s U.S. Wood Design Awards have been revealed! Washington D.C.-based nonprofit WoodWorks – Wood Products Council chose 19 honorees across nine categories that demonstrate wood’s value “as a nimble and modern building material, ushering in new precedents and challenging the public’s perception of its role in the built world.”

Duke University
Duke University

The projects, some of which were brought to completion in the midst of the 2020 pandemic, represent a dazzling array of wooden architecture, including grand chapels, multi-family housing, commercial buildings, university buildings and museums. They also showcase big trends in wooden architecture like cross-laminated timber, glulam (glued laminated timber) and charred siding. 

Trefethen Vineyard
Trefethen Vineyard

“This year’s award winners epitomize the innovation, resilience, and flexibility required for projects to flourish in a changing world,” said WoodWorks president and CEO, Jennifer Cover, in a statement. “We’re excited to see design and development teams approaching projects holistically, with buildings that respond uniquely to their communities.”

Oregon State University

Standouts include the “Wood in Schools” award winner, Oregon State University’s Forest Science Complex by Michael Green Architecture; “Commercial Wood Design” winner Cakebread Cellars in California by BCV Architecture + Interiors; “Institutional Wood Design” winner The Discovery Center in Pennsylvania by DIGSAU; “Durable & Adaptable Wood Structures” winner Trefethen Historic Winery in California by Taylor Lombardo Architects and Preservation Architecture; “Beauty of Wood” winner Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center at Duke University in North Carolina by Centerbrook Architects and Planners, and “Wood in Government Buildings” winner Jones Beach Energy & Nature Center in New York by nARCHITECTS.

Cakebread Winery

Do take a moment to look through all of the winners at the WoodWorks website to see all the cool ways architects are using wood for major projects around the country. It’s pretty inspiring to see this sustainable, renewable and beautiful material being integrated in bold, fresh and modern ways, and some of them are truly breathtaking.

Young Pros Show Off Their Talents in Woodworking Competition

Young Wood Pro finalists

Woodworking Network’s sixth #YoungWoodPros competition is underway, and the finalists have been chosen. The annual competition recognizes outstanding young woodworking professionals and their most impressive projects, drawing in hundreds of entries across the United States.

Open to all woodworkers between the ages of 18 and 35, the competition draws a fun array of projects in a variety of styles, from midcentury modern tables to electric guitars.

Young Wood Pro Zack Schaffer Johnson Dresser tiger maple and rosewood
Zack Schaffer’s Johnson Dresser
Young Wood Pros Mark Thomas Walnut Butcher Block Island
Mark Thomas’ Walnut Butcher Block Island

The Woodworking Network kicked off the 2021 competition by putting photos of all entries up on its Facebook page, and finalists were chosen by the public in the form of Facebook likes. From there, a panel of judges will consider the overall look and presentation of each project, along with the complexity of its construction and design.

Young Wood Pros Threlkeld Hawk Inlay
Daniel Threlkeld’s Hawk Hardwood Floor Inlay

The contest offers a peek into what young woodworkers consider to be their best work, and it’s fun to see all the unique ways the entrants use our favorite natural material to craft both functional and decorative objects. You can check all the entries out on the Woodworking Network’s Facebook page, and find the full list of ten finalists on their website. 

Young Wood Pros Luke Barnett Chair
Luke Barnett’s Birdcage Chair

Those finalists include Zack Schaffer, whose “Johnson Dresser” is made of tiber maple and hand carved rosewood, Mark Thomas, who made a walnut butcher block kitchen island, Daniel Threlkeld and his stunning Hawk Hardwood Floor Inlay, and Luke Barnett’s interpretation of the classic Windsor Chair, which consists of 13 uniquely steam-bent components designed to cradle the human body.

The winner of the contest will be announced at the 2021 Co-located Closets Conference & Expo/Wood Pro Expo on June 9, 2021 in Palm Springs, Florida. Last year, 31-year-old Andrew Morris won with a sleek and beautifully crafted walnut credenza.

Architectural Monographs: Design for a Rural Library Building

EWP Monographs Rural Library 1

A 1923 architectural competition challenged architects to design a rural library for a small American town of 2,000 residents, with an exterior made almost entirely of Eastern White Pine. One hundred and one submissions were received from all over the country and Canada, and “the general high standard and good taste displayed particularly in the large scale details were remarkable,” making it hard for the judges to choose a winner.

EWP Monographs Rural Library 2

The library was to be located on a main street and contain a variety of rooms, including a delivery room, reference room, librarian’s office and work room, storage for books not in constant rotation, a children’s area and an upper-floor Local Historical Museum. The siding, corner boards, window sash, frames and casings, outside blinds, cornice boards, brackets, ornaments and moldings had to be made of Eastern White Pine.

EWP Monographs Rural Library 3

To reflect the changing interior designs of the time, the judges asked that entrants avoid using interior partitions and left the room open and airy instead, using low bookcases as room dividers. The jury also sought designs that reflected the rural nature of the setting, and eliminated those that were too urban or suburban. The top submission is described as beautiful, simple and consistent, with details offering “a pleasing variety and a harmonious design.”

See all of the entries at the White Pine Monograph Library.

Architectural Monographs: A White Pine Vacation House

EWP Monographs Vacation House 5

In 1918, the White Pine Architectural Competition called for plans envisioning a vacation home for a hilly lakeside plot of land in New York, not to exceed $5,000 in cost, with an outside finish of Eastern White Pine.  The client wanted to focus on views of the lake, and required plenty of space for a family of four, plus regular guests – including a sleeping porch.

EWP Monographs Vacation House 1

The judges weren’t exactly impressed with the overall quality of the designs submitted, saying “the solutions, taken as a whole, indicate an almost painful absence of direct, synthetic, logical thought,” but three top prizes were arrived at nonetheless. The winning design caught their attention first for its beautiful renderings but also because the house is simple, direct and logical with “an unmistakeable wood character.”

EWP Monographs Vacation House 2

The annual competition not only promoted the use of white pine in architecture, but also had “the ulterior and more altruistic objects of raising the standard of domestic architecture; of discovering and encouraging new talent, and of providing for the prospective house builder a point of departure, at least, in his enterprise.” The competitions are still held to this day, nearly a century later.

EWP Monographs Vacation House 3

Read more at the White Pine Monograph Library.

Architectural Monographs: Competition for an Unusual Lakeside House

Monographs Vacation Season 1

In 1918, an owner of a lakeside lot in New York sought plans for the perfect vacation home, to be built for no more than $5,000 in a design that would blend in with a nearby village. The White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs sponsored a competition for plans that include a spacious living room, a grand fireplace, recreational space, a sleeping porch and a boat dock, inspiring dozens of architects to participate.

But the resulting entries, as noted in Volume IV, Issue IV of the Monographs entitled ‘Vacation Season,’ were largely disappointing because they ignored the call to design a house that isn’t in the typical cabin or lakeside bungalow style. Apparently, the architects got lost in daydreams about what they would like in their own vacation home on a lake, rather than addressing the needs of the homeowner (and can we blame them?)

Monographs Vacation Season 2

The jury’s description of the entries reflects what they call “an almost painful absence of direct, synthetic, logical thought.” Though several designs – which ultimately won first through fourth places – clearly stood apart, others had to be excluded “on account of a perhaps small but significant indication of a blind spot in the brain.” The first prize-winning entry is simple, direct and logical, but also beautiful, and artfully rendered.

Monographs Vacation Season 3

“It is rare that artistic skill of such a quality is combined with such practical good sense as is shown by the floor plans,” they write of the winner, Richard M. Powers. “Most of the practical solutions were painfully deficient in any sense of purely aesthetic values, while the ‘snappy’ drawings too often served only as cloaks for flagrant architectural sins.”

Monographs Vacation Season 4

Read more about the winning entries, and see more images, at the White Pine Architectural Monographs Library.