Consulate Edinburgh

Tomorrow’s Houses Today

A architectural seminar and exhibition in Wick will take the Scottish-Norwegian co-operation on building timber dwelling houses for the Scottish landscape one step further.

06/04/2004 :: ‘Building: Dwelling:Thinking’ was the title of the Architectural Competition between Scottish and Norwegian Architects and students that SNOBUF copromoted in1999/2000. The brief was to design a dwelling house suitable for the Scottish landscape - using indigenous timber. Rated a success by promoters and participants alike as a competition, the project also built relationships across borders, and raised further awareness in Scotland on the use of timber as a ‘Building’ material – and in these respects it was a natural follow on from the many timber events SNOBUF had promoted over the previous decade.

In Scotland, much ‘Thinking’ has been focused on timber in the years after this competition. ‘Thinking’, in the form of information gathering, writing, lecturing - and establishing infrastructure for a potential new Scottish industry to utilize and add value to the trees that were planted in the previous decades, and are now growing and maturing all over Scotland. Some believe Scotland has a green goldmine growing on its hills and in its glens – but worry about the lack of know-how and of skills, and of the absence of a recent tradition for using timber. This green resource is growing at a rate which will see Scotland’s harvestable double in the next 3 - 5 years, and the time to put plans into action for the utilization of this ‘green gold’, is now.

No wonder then, that some of the Scottish ‘Thinking’ has been focused on ‘Building’ and ‘Dwelling’. With publications, such as ‘Building in Timber’ and ‘Timber Cladding in Scotland’ (breaking down the myth that Scotland has never had a tradition of using timber cladding), and with the establishment of the Scottish Centre for Timber Engineering (Napier University) in 2001, and the ‘Scottish Forest Cluster’ in 2002, the foundations have been laid for a ‘new’ Scottish industry to emerge.

Most of Scotland’s new built Dwellings’ are, in fact, timber frame constructions. The irony, however, is that most of the timber used in these buildings is imported from Nordic/Baltic countries – whilst the home grown resource is sent to these countries as wood chips for the Nordic paper industry. ‘Building’ an average Scottish ‘Dwelling’ with the fast growing indigenous timber is still some way away – there is research to be done on the properties of the Scottish grown Sitka Spruce before housing manufacturers will/can use this material for buildings on a larger scale. And the Centre for Timber Engineering is where the research will be done, and where new ‘Thinking’ around ‘Building’ and ‘Dwelling’ in Scotland is taking place – and ultimately, where Scottish students will acquire expertise in timber construction.

It is important to keep in mind that not only is there a need to find ‘a home’ for the timber growing in Scotland, there is also a need to change to more environmentally friendly house construction materials in the UK – and timber is both a renewable material and has good thermal qualities. Timber as a main material for ‘Dwellings’ therefore makes sense.

Tomorrow’s House Today The Exhibition of the entries to the Architectural Competition open to Scottish and Norwegian Architects, ‘Building: Dwelling: Thinking’, will be on show in Wick, Caithness, in connection with a seminar on timber housing. The one-day seminar, entitled ‘Tomorrow’s House Today’ is organised by Highland Council – 120 delegates are expected. Among the prominent speakers at Ackergill Tower on 14 April 2003 will be Peter Wilson, Director, Manifesto Foundation for Architecture, who wrote the brief for the competition.

The Exhibition will be mounted in the Tree House at Ackergill Tower (the largest tree house in the UK- constructed last year), and will be officially opened by the Norwegian Consul General, Arne Sivertsen. The exhibition may be moved to another venue in Wick after the seminar.

For more information on the seminar please contact Carol Smith 01955 605 858
For more information on the exhibition please contact Anne Grethe Eckman 01506 845 124

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The Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick, by Simpson & brown ArchitectsPhoto: Keith Hunter