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Canadians converse in wood at Norway’s Bergen International Wood Festival


June 7, 2016
by Tammy Gaber

'Metamorphosis' LU Installation 1 (First Place winner). Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

‘Metamorphosis’ LU Installation 1 (First Place winner). Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

By Tammy Gaber

This May, I led a group of six Laurentian University architecture students on a trip to Iceland, Norway and Finland to “converse” in wood.

The highlight of the trip was the group’s participation in the Bergen International Wood Festival (BIWF). The group of LU students included Matthew Hunter, Marina Schwellnus, Marie Jankovich, Henry Dyck, Angela Perdue and Derrick Pilon. Fellow LU professor Randall Kober joined us for the BIWF portion of the trip.

BIWF is a biennial global competition, now in its sixth cycle, focusing on the use of wood for its tectonic, structural and tactile qualities. This year, 20 teams of designers, architects, artists and students from around the world competed by building installations in a Bergen park with the theme of “Green Transition.” The installations will remain on display until next summer, to be enjoyed by the city.

'Metamorphosis' LU Installation 1, with the entire LU team. Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

‘Metamorphosis’ LU Installation 1, with the entire LU team. Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

The competition, associated events and the overall hosting of teams was largely organized by professor Petter Bergerud and his team from the Bergen Academy of Art and Design. Sponsors included the Bergen School of Architecture, Bergen University College along with the City, County Governor, Innovation Norway, Wood Focus Norway, the Bergen Association of Architects, the Norwegian Association of Landscape Architects and the Norwegian Organization of Interior Architects and Furniture Designers.

The participating teams this year were from Canada (Laurentian University, McGill University, University of British Columbia and Ryerson University), Germany (Fachhochschule Dortmund, Dresden University, Muthesius University and independent carpenters and artists), Poland (Wroclaw University and the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw), Italy (Politecnico di Torino), Norway (Academy of Art and Design Bergen and independent architects), Turkey (Anadolu University) and Finland (Aalto University). They also included independent artists and architects from Spain.

LU group at Aurland. Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

LU group at Aurland. Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

Over the course of five days, the teams planned and constructed their installations along the park. In the evenings, social events were scheduled across the city including dinners at the local schools of design with impromptu tours—and continued discussions of design across cultures. Each of the teams presented their design concepts and construction methods on the fourth evening, sharing approaches and difficulties overcome during the process. Other evenings included lectures on wood, including by professor Kober (on new approaches in wood structures education) and myself (on design-build).

'Cavernous' LU Installation 2. Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

‘Cavernous’ LU Installation 2. Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

Three invited judges from Sweden, Norway and Denmark from different backgrounds of engineering, architecture and art surveyed the process, and in the final evening announced the following winners:

Honorable mention:
Moritz Oesignmann, Frank Linke Michael Rams with Geert Schwettler and Jan Kirchoff from Fachhochschule Dortmund.

Third Place:
Lorenz Becker Tobias Dal and Dirk Borchers, independent architects and carpenters from Germany.

Second Place:
Chris Szymberski, Vanessa Goldgrub and Heather Scott from University of British Columbia.

First Place:
Henry Dyck, Angela Perdue, Derrick Pilon with Tammy Gaber from Laurentian University.

'Frame of Mind' UBC Installation (Second Place winner). Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

‘Frame of Mind’ UBC Installation (Second Place winner). Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

After celebrating our BIWF victory, the Laurentian students and I continued with visits to key buildings in the region, including a historic Stave church, Knarvik church by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter, and the Aurland lookout designed by Canadian architect Todd Saunders (who we met earlier in the week) in collaboration with Tommie Wilhelmsen. In Oslo, the students and I met with a senior architect at Snøhetta, learning about the iterative process used in their practice—and spending ample time at the Norwegian National Opera house.

Dortmund Installation (honourable mention). Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

Dortmund Installation (honourable mention). Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

The group also traveled to Finland, with visits to key buildings in Helsinki, Espoo, Jyväskylä, Muuratsalo, Petäjävesi, Paimio and Turku. We met with Juhani Pallasmaa in his office and candidly discussed design. The conversation in wood continued as the group drove through the dense forests of the country and experienced first-hand the works of Alvar Aalto and other Finnish architects including Juha Leiviskä, Office for Peripheral Architecture, Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, K2S architects, Matti Sanaksenaho, Pekka Pitkänen and Erik Bryggman.

LU students at Todd Saunders lookout in Aurland. Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

LU students at Todd Saunders lookout in Aurland. Photo courtesy of Tammy Gaber.

In Bergen, we practiced raw experimentation with the properties of wood.  Throughout our Scandinavian tour, we surveyed a masterful exploration of wood design. Together, these experiences highlighted the necessity for a continued conversation in wood , both in education and practice—one that is latent with opportunities and questions.

Tammy Gaber, PhD is an assistant professor at the School of Architecture at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.



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