In a book about timber construction, my attention was caught by photographs of huge areas of closely packed tree trunks floating on wide expanses of water, I also liked the picture on the cover of the book, a collage of lengths of wood arranged in layers like a cross section. The numerous photos of wooden buildings, despite the fact that they were architecturally commendable, were less appealing. I have not built wooden houses for a long time.
A young colleague asked me how I would go about building a house of wood after working for some years with stone and concrete, steel and glass. At once, I had a mental image of a house-sized block of solid timber, a dense volume made of the biological substance of wood, horizontally layered and precisely hollowed out. A house like this would change its shape, would swell and contract, expand and decrease in height, a phenomenon that would have to be an integral part of the design. My young colleague told me that in Spanish, his mother tongue, the words wood, mother, and material were similar: madera, madre, materia. We started talking about the sensuous qualities and cultural significance of the elemental materials of wood and stone, and about how we could express these in our buildings.
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