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Learning from Trees: Transforming Timber Culture in Aotearoa

In the context of the urgent need for suburban resilience as a response to the climate change threat, timber provides the opportunity of achieving both high quality architectural outcomes and reduced carbon footprints. In this regard, New Zealand is in a unique position, as the abundance of locally sourced material and a dominant timber construction culture has fostered the ubiquity and rapid evolution of timber construction systems country-wide, offering the opportunity of developing innovative practices that combine aesthetic, structural and sustainability criteria.

Learning from Trees: Transforming Timber Culture in Aotearoa reflects the multiple advantages of the use of timber for the built environment. First, the value of sustainably and locally grown timber across the overall carbon cycle and how timber architectures play a strategic role in carbon storage for their entire life-cycle, thus contributing to the implementation of resilience strategies and the achievement of the Paris Agreement (UNFCC, 2015). Second, the value of timber as a driver for innovation in fabrication, also through the integration and use of digital tools and prefabrication techniques, building on the manual tradition of ‘joining sticks together’ with care and craft. Lastly, the value of salvaged and refurbished timber in the reduction of the demand for virgin materials and of the production of construction waste, through a creative process of recovery and repurposing that extends the life of the material.


Italian Exhibition, 17th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice


2020 – 2021


Research and design: Kathy Waghorn, Andrew Barrie, Mike Davis, and Paola Boarin.

Delivery Support Team: Max Smitheram, Denice Belsten, Melanie Milicich, and Robyn Chin.

Structural Engineer: Ruamoko Solutions.

Construction Team: Mark Andresen, Dylan Waddell, Josh Crandall, William Challombe-King, and Bronte Perry.

Photography: Mark Smith, Mary Gaudin, Gaz Blanco, Marcela Grassi

Sponsorship/funding: The University of Auckland, Abodo, and Spax

Project overview:

Italian Pavilion 2021: