Winners in wood design: 45th Annual Wood Awards

The winners of the 45th annual Wood Awards will be revealed in November. Ahead of the ceremony, Sarah Johnson exclusively previews the shortlisted projects in the Buildings Competition section.

The Wood Awards have been celebrating excellence in British wood-based architecture and product design since they were established in 1971. In a ceremony on 22 November at Carpenters Hall in the City of London, winners across a range of categories and sectors will be presented with their award.

The awards promote and encourage the use of wood by showcasing what can be achieved by uniting the vision and skills of architects, designers and craftsmen with the versatility, natural aesthetic and sustainability of different timber species.

As a non-profit competition, the Buildings Competition section of the Wood Awards is open to those associated with a UK building completed in the past two years (with the other part of the awards being the Furniture Competition). Judged by an independent expert panel, the awards have had an impact on the architectural and design landscapes by becoming a ‘mark of excellence’ in wood.

This year’s independent judging panel consists of the following:

  • Michael Morrison – Purcell UK
  • Ruth Slavid – freelance journalist
  • Andrew Lawrence – Arup
  • Jim Greaves – Hopkins
  • Adam Richards – Adam Richards Architects
  • Nathan Wheatley – Engenuity
  • David Morley – David Morley Architects
  • John Wilkie – craft specialist
  • Hugh Permian – RIBA Journal

From the 154 entries in the Buildings section, the judges were required to select a shortlist in five categories: Commercial & Leisure, Education & Public Sector, Interiors, Private and Small Projects. Their criteria are “quality of design, craftsmanship and installation regardless of project size and value.” The judges are, in short, looking for the best new examples of wood in architecture.

Having chosen twenty 20 finalists, the judges will pick a winner in each category, as well as an overall winner who will receive the prestigious Arnold Laver Gold Trophy.

Past winners of this prize include David Morley Architects for the Hurlingham Club Outdoor Pool in 2012, Adam Richards Architects for the Ditching Museum of Art + Craft in 2014 and Niall McLaughlin Architects for both the Bishop Edward King Chapel in 2013 and the Fishing Hut in 2015.

Below we highlight a project in each of the categories:


Gloucester Services

  • Location: Brookthorpe, Gloucestershire
  • Architect: Glenn Howells Architects
  • Client/owner: Westmorland Ltd
  • Structural Engineer: BWB Consulting
  • Main Contractor/Builder: Buckingham Group
  • Joinery Company & Wood Supplier: B&K Structures
  • Post Contract (Construction) Architect: AFL Architects
  • Quantity Surveyor & Project Management: Frank Whittle Partnership
  • Planning & Landscape Architect: Pegasus Planning Group
  • Wood species: European Spruce

Gloucester Services is a 60,000 ft2 motorway service area located in the Cotswolds countryside, flanked by an area of natural beauty. It is testimony to family firm Westmorland’s intention to apply a different approach to motorway services area design, and provide services dedicated to food, farming and the community.

Inspired by a farming background, Westmorland opened the first family run motorway services in England: Tebay Services in Cumbria in 1972. Gloucester Services is only the company’s second services, and reflects the same ethos for sustainable buildings crafted in natural materials.

Glenn Howells Architects was appointed to design a motorway services inspired by a barn-like environment that would use natural, local materials as much as possible. The main building is bedded into the hillside to lessen the impact on the landscape and to provide an acoustic barrier.

The exposed internal glulam roof forms a striking cruck-frame like structure. Glulam was also the perfect material for the front of house areas like the foyer and restaurant. The glulam interior is complemented by retaining walls dressed in Cotswold dry stone.


Alconbury Weald Club, Alconbury Weald Huntingdon

Architect: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Wood species: Austrian Spruce

Sky Health & Fitness Centre Osterley, London

Architect: dRMM
Wood species: Spruce

Stihl Treetop Walkway, Westonbirt Gloucestershire

Architect: Glenn Howells Architect
Wood species: Scottish and Siberian Larch

Mottisfont Welcome Centre Mottisfont, Hampshire

Architect: Burd Haward Architects Ltd
Wood species: European Spruce, European Larch, Canadian Western Red Cedar, Thermally Modified Scandinavian Redwood, European Oak, Plywood and OSB Sheathing


Conservation & Repair of Harmondsworth Barn

  • Location: Harmondsworth, Middlesex
  • Architect: Ptolemy Dean Architects
  • Client/owner: English Heritage
  • Structural Engineer: Historic England
  • Main contractor & Joinery: Owlsworth IJP
  • Wood Supplier: Whippletree
  • Wood species: English Oak

Harmondsworth Barn is England’s largest surviving timber-framed medieval barn yet it was considered a health hazard by current owner English Heritage when it rescued the building after years of neglect.

The oak framed and weather boarded Grade 1 listed barn built by Winchester College in 1426 is an outstanding example of medieval carpentry, with one of the most intact interiors of the period. At almost 60 m long, 12 m wide and 11 m tall, with 13 huge oak trusses holding up the roof, its conservation and repair was no small undertaking.

The use of timber and the skills of heritage craftsman were pivotal to the complex structural repair, which included the removal of the entire roof to rectify the lopsided frame and reinstate the historic arrangement covered by emergency structural work undertaken in the 1990s.

“It’s a work of art”, says Nadir Halisch, project manager, English Heritage. “The timber looks beautiful. The scale of work and craftsmanship are impressive, it has been delicately and sensitively done.”


Maggie’s at the Robert Parfett Building, Manchester

Architect: Foster + Partners
Wood species: Nordic Spruce

Mellor Primary School, Stockport, Manchester

Architect: Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
Wood species: Canadian Western Red Cedar, European Larch, Birch Ply

Springfield St. Clare’s Oxford, Oxford

Architect: Hodder + Partners
Wood species: European Oak, Spruce

Stanbrook Abbey, Wass, Yorkshire

Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Wood species: German Oak, Scottish Spruce, Douglas Fir, British Sycamore


Tufnell Park Road

  • Location: London
  • Architect: TYPE Studio
  • Structural Engineer: Ellis and Moore
  • Main Contractor/Builder: Borisa Ristic & Co
  • Joinery Company: Glennwood Design, Woodjays
  • Wood Supplier: Coyle’s Timber
  • Floor Supplier: Tintab
  • Wood Species: Sweet Chestnut, White Larch, Birch Ply

The brief was to create a light, spacious and contemporary living, cooking and dining area within an infill extension to a two bedroom basement flat of a Victorian terrace. Timber has been used to add interest and to help loosely define ‘rooms’ within an open plan space.

Ogi Ristic, director, Type Studio, explains:

“In Tufnell Park we wanted to escape the conventional white plasterboard building material. Timber for us was a relatively affordable way of achieving this and provided a distinct warm tone throughout a space that used to be dark and grey,”

The timber dining area which divides the kitchen from the sitting area is all expressed in sweet chestnut with the exposed steelwork and gridded timber ceiling separating it from the existing building. Chestnut was chosen for its colour, grain, structure and because it could be used both inside and outside where it formed a projecting window seat linking the extension with the garden. Larch floor boards run throughout each space to bring everything together.


Christ Church Crypt Spitafields, London

Architect: Dow Jones Architects
Wood species: European Oak

The Portledge Rear Staircase Tiverton, Devon

Architect: Witcher Crawford Architects and Designers
Wood species: German Walnut, English Oak


Ansty Plum

  • Location: Wiltshire
  • Architect: Coppin Dockray
  • Structural Engineer: Tall Engineering
  • Main Contractor/Builder: J & C Symonds Ltd
  • Joinery Company: Westside Design
  • Wood Supplier: Meyer Timber, SMS Veneering Services, Oscar Windebanks
  • Wood Species: Douglas Fir, Birch

Located on a steep wooded hillside within the historic village of Ansty, the retrofit and extension to a 1960s house – designed by architect David Levitt, founder member of Levitt Bernsteins – involved the stripping of 50 years of sequential changes to re-instate the architectural qualities of its Douglas Fir construction and improve thermal performance.

Its derelict wood-lined studio designed by Peter and Alison Smithson has also been brought back to life with Douglas Fir says Sandra Coppin, Coppin Dockray:

“We chose Douglas Fir for the studio building. It has a fantastic warm, pink colour and a beautiful grain. The cold and cave-like space of the Smithson studio, with its grey stone walls and north facing window, means the temperatures inside are cool all year round.”

She added:

“We wanted a material that was durable and natural, one that would bring a sense of warmth to this small space. The orangery-pink tone of Douglas Fir provides a keen contrast with the dense green of the mossy bank of ferns into which the building is hedged.”


Contour House, Peak District

Architect: Sanei Hopkins Architects
Wood species: American White Oak, European Oak

Woodpeckers, New Forest

Architect: Strom Architects
Wood species: European Larch, Siberian Larch, Softwood


Kingston Ancient Market Place & Stalls

  • Location: Kingston upon Thames
  • Architect: Tonkin Liu
  • Client/Owner: Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames
  • Structural Engineer: Rodrigues Associates
  • Main Contractor/Builder: Balfour Beatty
  • Joinery Company & Wood Supplier: KLH
  • Part-Funding Client: Greater London Authority
  • Market Traders Management: Kingstonfirst
  • Transport & Civil Engineer: JMP
  • Wood Species: Spruce

The choice of timber for Kingston Market was triggered by the surrounding timber-built Tudor buildings. CLT constructed market stalls and a CLT hybrid roof and canopy use timber in a contemporary and functional way.

“We wanted one material to be used throughout”, says Anna Liu, director, Tonkin Liu Architects. “Timber was chosen because of its materiality, durability, and sustainability. Timber also improves with age, even with constant battering, weathering, and usage, of which there will be much in Kingston’s daily market.

Liu adds:

“A market is both very stable and constantly in flux with core traders who’ve be there for generations, as well as new emerging ones. Even in the year of designing and delivering the stalls, there must have been 50 iterations in the layout of the designs, responding to the evolving needs of the traders.

The architect concludes:

“This CLT timber is the most sustainable material, not just in its sourcing, but also in its future adaptability for the comings and goings of different types of stalls. The timber partitions and roofs can also be easily modified and fixed to as desired.”


Doors for 55 St James’ Street, London

Designer: Sarah Kay
Wood species: German Oak, French Oak

Hollow, Bristol

Architect: Zeller & Moye
Wood species: Various

The Twist, Timber Expo 2015

Architect: Architectural Association
Wood species: Birch Ply