As a material for cladding, wood has come back Into vogue In Europe only In the past fifteen to twenty years. The modernists used steel, aluminium, glass and concrete not only for their technical qualities, but also for their appearance.The investments involved in wood manufacturing are relatively low, and there are many relatively small factories with moderate capacity throughout Europe.This situation is not beneficial for the research and development of new products and techniques that require big investments. These two factors - the disinterest of the designers and the lack of development - reinforce each other and have led to wood being associated with traditional building in various 'neo-' styles: Neo-Western, Neo-Classical and so on.

Another difference between timber and other materials is the level of knowledge that is incorporated into the cladding system. Many proprietary systems are the result of substantial research, with the knowledge generated used to design the system parts including the fixings. The manufacturer of the system offers a guarantee for fitness for purpose, provided it is applied in the prescribed fashion. Most such systems are erected by specialised facade building contractors, who therefore take responsibility for its correct application.The situation differs in the case of timber; whereby correct installation usually becomes the responsibility of the main contractor, who may not have been chosen for his knowledge of timber cladding. Moreover; architects cannot rely on the manufacturer of the system, because there is no system.

One of the first examples of the use of wood in eye-catching architecture is Renzo Piano's travelling exhibition pavilion for IBM. Piano did not use wood as a cladding material but did research one of the problems of wood, the connection, and showed how this can be solved in an elegant way by the use of cast aluminium fittings (Figure 8.1). Between 1984 and I 998 Herzog & de Meuron built the Wohnhaus im Hof, in Basel, Switzerland (Figure 8.2), with a timber construction in the gallery and a timber facade. In I 998, David Chipperfield designed the Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames, UK. It is a hybrid construction of concrete and steel, with a finely detailed oak cladding. This building is a good example of how timber can be used without the traditional image, and in a crisp, refined way (Figure 8.3).

Wood is still rarely used in tall (high-rise) buildings. Although wood is cheap, it tends to be seen as less durable than concrete, glass, stainless steel

8.1 Travelling exhibition pavilion for IBM (architect: Renzo Piano)

or aluminium. If, when necessary, the cladding can easily be replaced, the client can be convinced that wood is a realistic alternative.

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