There is a higher complexity and knowledge required when working with wood

There is a higher complexity and knowledge required when working with wood

Olga Popovic Larsen is a Professor at the Royal Danish Academy and she is one of the speakers at this year’s Build in Wood 18-19 May. She will give a presentation on Waste Wood Architecture in the context of Circularity.

The presentation explores the architectural potential of waste wood applications in building scale, through novel approaches in design, fabrication, assembly, and analysis of large-scale inhabitable structures. In this article, you can read and interview with Olga Popovic Larsen.

How do you and your company work with wood? 

I am working at the Royal Danish Academy where I research and teach. Currently, at the Royal Danish Academy a number of researchers, including myself, are working with wood in the context of sustainable approaches and circular design. My own research specifically addresses wood as a loadbearing material for creating minimal structures, especially structures formed by connecting short elements and using simple connections known as “Reciprocal Frames (RF)”. In the last year or two, my research has evolved into looking at wood leftovers and building with wood that we currently consider as waste, where RF structures from short elements have a role to play. These applications of RFs have a distinct aesthetic and that is another aspect that I am working with: (Waste) wood’s potential for architecture through material agency. These research aspects are included in my teaching at BA, candidate level as well as supervising a recently started PhD exploring exactly (Waste) Wood’s potential for architecture, with PhD candidate Xan Browne, a collaboration between the Royal Academy, Lendager group, funded by Innovations Fonden and Realdania.

Olga Popovic Larsen, Professor, The Royal Danish Academy

What do you like about wood as a building material? 

Wood is a high-strength natural and renewable bio-composite. With its properties it compares to steel and concrete, yet it is renewable and biodegradable.  Wood is composed of about 50% carbon by dry weight, removed from the atmosphere during growth and released when burned or decomposed. It is also a beautiful material that has texture, tactility and presence in the spaces we design.

In your opinion, what are the biggest dilemmas within wood construction right now?

The building sector in Denmark relies on a highly developed concrete industry. The wood sector, on the other hand, consists of small producers. Furthermore, there are preconceptions about wood that as material it is inferior in comparison to concrete and steel. All materials have problems if badly designed. So, design, both architectural and engineering design are very important when designing with wood. There is a higher complexity and knowledge required when working with wood as it is an anisotropic material. Correct detailing is hugely important for achieving the visual and performative qualities of wood. This requires early collaboration in the design team between carpenter/entrepreneur, architect and engineer is essential for achieving quality.    

What are the architectural possibilities and challenges of wood?

If well designed wood can last for centuries in the form of beautiful buildings and structures. If badly designed and detailed wood will rot and decay very fast.

What do you talk about at Build in Wood? 

I will talk about the opportunities and challenges when building in wood, but not only with new wood, but also how to re-use wood in building projects and make wood last longer. I will also talk about wood’s material agency as an opportunity for architecture and building design in the context of sustainability and circularity. I hope that my presentation will inspire and provoke as well as influence collaborations enabling building more and better with wood.

Do you want to hear more about wood from Olga Popovic Larsen?

Hear Olga’s presentation at Build in Wood 18-19 May. Read more about the event here and sign up here.

Top image: Waste Wood, The Royal Danish Academy

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