Is timber the future of architecture? Find out with Forest of Fabrication at RIBA North - The Guide Liverpool

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Is timber the future of architecture? Find out with Forest of Fabrication at RIBA North



RIBA North, The Building Centre and RIBA chartered practice dRMM present Forest of Fabrication, an exhibition celebrating the possibilities and significance of modern timber architecture.

A new exhibition is now open at RIBA North. dRMM present engineered timber as the defining material of 21st century architecture.

RIBA chartered architects dRMM, led by Professor Alex de Rijke, Philip Marsh, Sadie Morgan and Jonas Lencer, are pioneers in the use and development of engineered timber. They carry out extensive research into new approaches to building design by considering experimental structure, composition and placemaking; addressing both social and environmental sustainability through thoughtful interiors and an understanding of how people move through, use and experience spaces. dRMM believe outstanding architecture solves problems and transforms lives. A belief which is shared by many and which will be put to the test over the coming decade as our global community faces unprecedented challenges.


During its life cycle a tree makes oxygen, eats carbon, produces food, shade, habitat, colour and character. Trees also control wind, water levels, soil erosion, pollution and temperature while endlessly renew themselves. Not only do trees make cities more possible and desirable when alive, they then provide future fuel, construction materials and compost for new trees after death. Trees and the timber products created from them are an exemplar of Cradle to Cradle* design, an approach to design that considers whole life cycles as a means of designing with minimal impact on our planet.

The built environment contributes to almost 40% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. Since it provides our shelter, our homes, our spaces of play, work and leisure the built environment is an industry we cannot do without. It makes sense that as humans we create the best spaces and places we can; spaces which support our wellbeing and enhance our existence with minimal impact on the finite resources of the planet. There is much for the industry to do to address and reduce its impact on changing climate and thoughtfully consider changing social structures and needs. dRMM’s approach to materials, their ideology and their ongoing research and innovation is a good start, which many of us could learn from. dRMM are also founding signatories of Architects Declare, a collective of architectural studios who have laid out and committed to a set of sustainable principles by which they, and they hope others, will work from.

This exhibition features 24 concept models across 24 years from this Stirling Prize winning practice. Each project explores the challenges and opportunities of timber design and collectively shows the outcome of dRMM’s approach to continued renewal through knowledge, innovation and a compassion for our planet and ourselves.

The exhibition narrative takes visitors on a journey through the existing capabilities and future potential of engineered timber, from concept to construction. At the heart of the exhibition is ‘Table Turned’, a unique meeting table made by Benchmark from laminated tulipwood, designed by Alex de Rijke with Barnby & Day for the American Hardwood Export Council’s ‘The Wish List’.  Visitors are invited to take a seat, have a coffee and enjoy the show.

Professor Alex de Rijke, founding Director of dRMM said, “The history of architecture can be characterised by materials rather than styles. The 18th century was defined by brick, the 19th century by steel and the 20th by concrete. In 2004 I predicted that engineered timber would define the 21st century. dRMM have explored its endless potential ever since.”

A parallel event programme, jointly curated by RIBA North and dRMM, will bring together international designers, developers, makers and academics to explore emerging materials and markets, innovations in off-site fabrication methods, current changes in legislation, and consider the arguments for timber whilst celebrating its role in contemporary architecture.

Suzy Jones, Director of RIBA North, said “Forest of Fabrication is a timely exhibition which draws our attention to the significance of the choices we make about how buildings are designed and built. In this exhibition we see how timber translates into something beautiful, groundbreaking and inspirational. I am genuinely delighted to host this exhibition at RIBA North. I can’t keep out of the galleries. It smells good too!”

* Cradle to Cradle® is a design concept that was developed in the 1990s by Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, William McDonough and the scientists of EPEA in Hamburg. It stands for innovation, quality as well as good design and describes the safe and potentially infinite use of materials in cycles.

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