Whilst alighting briefly on architecture magazines, one of the great, existing fixtures is the Japanese mag, A+U (Architecture + Urbanism), notable for its remarks by the architects involved in featured projects, as well as peerless photography, detailed cutaways and clean design. The latest issue – #431 06.08 – rounds up recent ‘wooden architecture’. It’s a joy to read about such gloriously sensual works before heading off to work on a bright August morning through London’s dusty, dirty stone streets, I can tell you. You can almost smell the fresh spruce, wafting off the page …
The issue starts with a lovely essay, ‘Remarks on Wood Architecture’, by Pekka Heikkinen who is in charge of the Wood Program at the Helsinki University of Technology. He rather lovingly describes how wood is fantastically interesting and useful as building material, forcing a tight connection with place and process. Indeed, as you’d expect, the heavily-wooded Scandinavian countries feature heavily, but also Ireland, Switzerland, Austria etc. (Surprising no schemes from Japan, Australia or other South Pacific areas, perhaps, where wooden architecture also has a rich history and future?)
There are a stunning series of churches, particularly the vernacular-influenced Kärsämäki Church, Finland, by Lassila Hirvilammi Architects and Matti Sanaksenaho’s St Henry’s Ecumenical Art Chapel, Turku, Finland. We also see the best photographs yet of the now familiar – deservedly – Lookout Point, Aurland, by Todd Saunders & Tommie Wilhelmsen (my first sighting was Jonathan Bell writing about it Wallpaper*; it has since been added to Google Earth by Domus.)
It’s not all Scandi, though. Some interesting self-contained retreat units, ‘Poustinia’, by Bates Maher, in Tipperary, Ireland. (‘Poustinia’ is a Russian word for ‘desert’ and is used to designate a small cabin set aside for silence or prayer.) See also, "the Wave", or Bern West Passenger Bridge, by smarch. attempts to heighten the romantic, transformative sense of rail travel (a concept now only attainable on the Swiss railways perhaps!). Holzbox, a "multi-functional camp" in Passail, Austria looked like a very pleasant holiday option indeed. Prefab units floating above Austrian meadows.
Whilst floating, both White Arkitekter’s Kastrup Sea Bath, in Denmark, and Niels Bruun & Henrik Corfitsen’s Nordic Watercolour Museum, Skärhamn, Sweden, both jut out dramatically to sea and archipelago. Both also embody senses of retreat, repose and reflection, common to many of the works featured here. Is there something about wooden architecture, in which it has come to stand for this kind of function? I note there are no petrol stations, office blocks or barracks listed here. Or is this A+U’s particular sensibilities shining through? Still, a fabulous issue of a great magazine.
A+U’s website uses the Flash Page viewer to enable a closer look at the page. This almost fetishises the page layout, but as noted yesterday, can be no replacement for the rich texture and immediate physicality of the actual magazine. An interesting approach though.
Some more spreads below:
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