Two British Columbia projects that demonstrate new ways to use wood and steel have garnered the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) Innovation in Architecture award for 2015.
The Wood Innovation Design Centre in Prince George is a centre of excellence at the University of Northern British Columbia. It aims to show that tall timber buildings can be economical and safe, and celebrates wood as a beautiful and sustainable material. The architect is Michael Green, of MGA | Michael Green Architecture in Vancouver.
One Fold is a research project exploring the architectural possibilities of folding a single sheet of steel one time. The project takes its inspiration from a challenge put to origami artist, Paul Jackson to make an origami sculpture with only one fold. The architects are John and Patricia Patkau, of Patkau Architects in Vancouver.
A three-member jury called the projects “extraordinary examples of true innovation… innovation that is significant, repeatable and applicable to the profession.” They “demonstrate processes of innovation that are founded on patience and discipline,” the jury said. “The projects reflect a focus on continual research, investigation and development by two firms with long histories of significant works,” the jury members added. “It is inspirational work that is intended to share.”
The jury members were architects Omar Gandhi, of Halifax, Donald Chong, of Toronto, and Jean-Pierre LeTourneux, of Montreal.
Wood Innovation Design Centre (WIDC)
As the first tall wood building in Canada built beyond current building codes, WIDC is a demonstration project for the future of building in wood. The eight-storey building (six storeys plus mezzanine and penthouse) stands 29.5 metres tall, making it North America’s tallest contemporary timber building. To prove that all life safety requirements could be met, the project team conducted extensive mock-ups, testing, and detailed studies.
MGA sought to demonstrate economical, repeatable technologies for building high-rise structures with timber, hoping to inspire institutions, private sector developers, and other architects and engineers to embrace this way of building. The firm argues that building with wood sourced from sustainably managed forests offers designers a rapidly renewable, low energy, and carbon-sequestering alternative to conventional building materials. Greater use of timber for large structures would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
One Fold is an experiment that belongs to a long architectural ambition to realize structures with ever-higher strength to weight ratios. As a self-supporting thin shell structure, One Fold spans and covers an area with a minimum of material and embodied energy.
It is lightweight, durable, demountable and recyclable. Its advantages include an extremely high strength to weight ratio and ease of distribution and fabrication. One Fold requires almost no secondary support structures.
Patkau Architects developed a series of machines to fold and bend sheets of stainless steel of increasingly large sizes. To date, One Fold exists only as a prototype. “It is an efficient structure that embodies a minimal ecological footprint,” say the architects. “More than this, it represents an attention to material that finds beauty in structure and structure in beauty, promoting that aspiration within architecture generally.”