Finish-grade plywood has a simple, clean beauty to it that can help refresh interior spaces in need of an update. A3A Arquitetos Associados made ample use of it at the Herdade dos Toucinhos Office Building in Portugal, completely transforming the layout of the existing building with new modular built-in units. Serving as the headquarters of an agricultural company as well as communal housing for farm workers, the building has to be multifunctional and use the available space wisely.
First and foremost, the architects lifted the roof and added skylights to take full advantage of abundant natural light during the day. This made room for a new intermediate mezzanine level that essentially doubles the building’s floor space. Instead of framing it out conventionally with drywall, they chose to create plywood-clad volumes that stand independently in the center of the building.
These new volumes divide up the wide open space of the building, creating a perimeter of hallways, interior spaces, ceilings for the lower level and a platform for the mezzanine. They include built-in storage, closets, benches, desks and lighting and lack any unnecessary hardware for a unified, uncluttered result. All exterior walls were maintained in their original condition to preserve the character of the building.
“This project embraces a modern, contemporary design, which starts from the analysis of tradition and its reinterpretation, its simplification and clarification, in a global strategy that aims to be minimalist and highly effective in functionally optimizing and preserving tradition.”
When you’re living in a tiny apartment, every square inch counts. Finding space to carry out all your daily functions and store your belongings can be challenging, but there’s one nearly foolproof way to solve the problem: just look up. Making use of empty vertical space can dramatically alter how large a room feels, especially when you’re able to create new built-in furniture and storage solutions like this one.
In Taiwan, Hao Design completed a wooden bridge-like mezzanine out of pine plywood that includes stairs, bookshelves, drawers and a work table while also connecting the master bedroom to a new walk-in wardrobe.
Prior to the renovation, the apartment was just one level, with a single bedroom. The redesign takes advantage of the full height of the space and strategically places new surfaces around windows to magnify incoming natural light. The lofted bedroom platform features a clear Plexiglas wall to keep it feeling bright and spacious, and the new closet is situated on top of the first-floor bathroom.
The combination of the loft platform, bookshelves and new work area under the stairs pack a lot of uses into what might otherwise be wasted space. Even the undersides of the steps offer a place to store books and other items.
The designers continue the pine plywood theme throughout the apartment, including the hallway, living room and open-plan kitchen for a cohesive result. It’s a great example of how a simple, inexpensive material like plywood can elevate a space, bringing in natural color and texture that gives the home warmth and character.
When architecture firm Alexander & Co. was commissioned to freshen up a Victorian semi-detached terrace house in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, they envisioned a structure that could be “a scaffold for growth and change.” Though it was in poor condition with a layout that didn’t make sense, the house still had good bones and a lot of promise. The clients, a family with young children, wanted the result to feel humanized and imperfect. Rather than “a collection of set gyprock and flush surfaces,” as the architects put it, the home should feature natural materials, and retain the sense that it’s a work in progress that will be continuously altered in the years to come to meet new needs and preferences.
The project also came with a tight budget, requiring the architects to get creative. Instead of featuring an open plan, they decided to densely divide the space into a greater number of rooms, offering plenty of opportunities to sit down, rest and take in views of an old gum tree in the center of the rear garden. An ongoing project including three renovations over a period of seven years, the home has a new pine plywood loft as a “rumpus room” for the children and beautiful pale pine details throughout, accenting the white walls and stone flooring.
“For the young children, the home was to explain how it was built; to show its structural rhythms, to demonstrate how materials could be added to one another and result in spaces which are honest and often surprising. Inspired by the works of Alvar Aalto and Louis Kahn, the home has a loosely modernist philosophy, whilst its exploration of locally available and low cost pine structure and Carrara stone gives it an almost Scandinavian sensibility.”
“The home is representative of the non-static state of ‘completion’. In effect, each gyration of the project represents another ‘incomplete’ end point, the home is a scaffold for ongoing change and the family has relished this fact. The interiors reflect this also, with various finishes, materials and furniture continuing to evolve, as do the tastes and needs of its occupants. The palette is a contemporary interpretation of a Scandinavian style. Low cost pine structures and exposed pine ply sheeting makes up the majority of internal finishes, with various uses and formats of Carrara tile to bathrooms, kitchen splash backs and floor surfaces. The home is quirky, infused with the unique spirit of the family and its progressive domestic evolutions. Not surprisingly, it is the integrity of imperfect, inert and low cost materials which gives the home so much of its spirit.”
A modern glass writer’s cabin set within a gorgeous garden in Spain? Sounds amazing, but believe it or not, the coolest thing about this transparent getaway is one of its interior walls. MuDD Architects used digital fabrication technology to design an undulating pine plywood wall full of built-in bookshelves, which create a dynamic curve within an otherwise rectilinear structure. Visible from outside, it’s the only built-in feature in an otherwise minimalist design.
The cabin was designed and built within a few months for a children’s book writer, who needed a space that could act as a source of inspiration for her future stories. Set in the North of Madrid, which experiences cold winters, it features a custom cast black iron hanging wood stove, a continuous roof made of folded oxidized iron and a slightly off-center roof peak. The floor is also one continuous surface extending from the exterior terrace to the interior of the cabin. Set within the plywood of the bookshelves are tiny built-in lights that create an effect of fireflies at night.
“The most challenging part but as well one of the most important parts of the house are the highly complex curvy bookshelves adapted to the very specific sloped high roofs of the house. A different tone of wood this time locally sourced pine wood is used and on purpose left natural to contrast with the maple syrup finishing of the maple inside cladding panels.”
“These bookshelves create a sensation of the movement held still in a time where the heavyweight of both the horizontal and verticals are counterbalancing the weight of the high roof. The bookshelves are composed of 100 different pieces cut with CNC with Fusteria Digital in Girona where different sorts of dry assembly were tested in order to be the most discrete possible.”
You don’t see many wooden houses shaped like this, do you? Adopting a silhouette more commonly seen in ultramodern concrete architecture, the appropriately named “Curved House” was built in a short time period on a tight budget, but you’d never know by looking at it.
Architecture firm Daluz Gonzalez came up with a unique design to fit a small plot of land already occupied by the home of the clients’ parents. It had to fit just right into the limited space, but also appeal to the clients’ personal style.
Slotting into the yard, the new house can be approached from the existing house via a concrete pathway, and it’s built on a concrete basement foundation. But the entire house structure is made of wood, including the roof and the interiors. Black stained, narrow vertical siding covers every side of the irregular geometric shape, and the inside is clad in budget-friendly plywood, giving it a minimalist, contemporary yet warm feel.
Even on a more conventionally shaped house, these material choices would be striking. The black vertical siding is a bold choice, exuding drama. Inside, the plywood contrasts with the concrete to accentuate the staggered split-level layout, which is left open as a sky-lit atrium in the middle of the house.
Though we only get a peek of it, the existing house designed in the ‘80s by architect Max Schentz is unusual, too, with a semicircular shape (albeit more traditional finishing). The greenery and walkway separating the two houses prevents any sort of visual clash, and from above, as you can see in this drawing, the two shapes actually work together to create a larger, dynamic layout that takes full advantage of the irregular lot.
Most of us don’t associate plywood with fine art, but an Oakland-based sculptor named Gabriel Schama is changing that with layered laser-cut creations of stunning intricacy. Some of his designs are architectural, others more organic, some even incorporating type.
The artist works with 1/8” pieces of plywood, stacking them on top of each other to create dimension and depth.
Schama starts with vector illustrations, sending each layer to his laser cutter (which he has nicknamed ‘Elsie’) and then hand-gluing and finishing each piece. On his Instagram, Schama details his creative process, showing how he draws each vector layer on a Cintiq tablet pad. He currently has several works up for sale on his website.