The diversity of timber in Alvar Aalto’s architecture: forests, shelter and safety
I have always enjoyed the use of timber in architecture. It is well understood and as such it has become a diverse material with a variety of implementations to offer. However, it takes more than an understanding of how wood works to make it effective. Alvar Aalto has utilised wood to convey more than just physical properties. He uses it provide psychological benefits to his buildings. He creates atmosphere out of the timber that would not be possible through the use of any other material. He referred to wood "as a timeless material with ancient traditions". However, in reference to traditional Finnish timber usage, he says also that he does not use the material for sentimental reasons.
The wood becomes a part of a grander scheme of organic approach to design. This is a style which I feel is only emphasised by the use of wood. Taking things further, Aalto is very specific when it comes to timber, being purposely descriptive of his choices for particular types of timber. Wood is a material which can change with time, different types will do so in different ways and this is a key part of the decisions in architectural design. Of course timber can be treated to prevent or slow these changes, but the ways in which timber is chosen and used shows the level of consideration of a building regardless of what outcome results.
The have always been a big fan of timber in architecture, be it for structure, facade, or anywhere in between. However I have not always thought about using it in the extents that Aalto has. I love that he creates atmospheres from it and produces organic forms with it. I love that timber can be picked for certain qualities and allowed to alter over time. On a recent trip to Hill Holt Wood, we learned a lot about the different types of wood and how they are useful for different purposes. This reading has not only resulted in me reflecting on itself, but also on that trip.
I will, without doubt, be pushing the use timber in my designs, perhaps even searching for a combination or equilibrium with the aforementioned Hi-Tech approaches. Contrast can be a beautiful thing after all.