We touched base with  Janne Teräsvirta a partner at the renowned architecture studio ALA to ask how important is timber in their designs and what they do to get clients over the line...

Helsinki Central LibraryHelsinki Central Library

Woodform: ALA uses large quantities of timber in it’s projects. Why is this? Janne Teräsvirta: Timber is part of the Nordic DNA. At least in Finland, it has faced a negligence as a construction material during the modern era. A certain frustration to this negligence is there, although not as a main reason, in our work (we use plenty of other materials too and avoid being too dogmatic about architectural choices in general). The main motivator for meaningful architecture is its context. The context of culture, or construction culture as defined above, is an unavoidable factor. Extensive use of timber, as seen in some of our work, is always motivated also by the instant context: the needs of the buildings site and the surroundings.

Kilden Performing ArtsKilden Performing Arts

W: In Australia, our architects struggle to get their clients to accept the use of timber. How do you get your clients to accept timber? You use it mainly as a lining, is this an important aspect in their acceptance? JA: Most people around here love timber, and would love to see more of it in the built environment. So finding enthusiastic and motivated contractors to actually build of timber is a bigger a challenge than convincing clients. They are many, but most of them are small and/or busy. Maybe surprisingly, our legislation has a lot of catching-up to do regarding structural timber, even though forest industry has been our main trade for centuries. We’ve mostly worked on large-scale projects where it hasn’t been technically possible to implement total timber structures.

Kilden Performing ArtsKilden Performing Arts

W: How early on in designing is timber considered? JA: In cases like Kilden, or the Helsinki Central library it has been one of the very first architectural considerations. These are projects with a strong need for a blatant signature architecture. We have often sought this kind of architecture by focusing on a small number of architectural elements and trying to take them to the extreme, both technically and visually.

Helsinki Central LibraryHelsinki Central Library

W: As an element, how integral is it to overall success of the project? JA: In projects such as Kilden, or the Helsinki central library, timber is totally integral to the architecture and therefore also to the success of the building in general. Regarding a positive effect to construction culture (which is one definite aim for any public building) the success of wood construction solutions in a technical sense is very important. There’s still plenty of distrust towards the durability and maintenance of timber in modern architecture.

Blueshus NotoddenBlueshus Notodden

W: How important is the use of timber in the built environment? JA: The importance regarding aims for carbon free -development is apparent and well known, as are other technical benefits (acoustics, indoor air quality, etc). The main architectural importance lies in somewhere beyond this: We find that most built environments can use plenty of more warmth, tactility, softness and understandability. Credits: Renders by ALA, Photos by Iwan Baan

Share: