From extraction to growth -
a concreteless project

*Finalist WheelWright Prize - Harvard University GSD 2018

In the constant need to improve the quality of built space, added to the growing demand for new housing units around the planet, we face, as a global society, a contradiction between the immense housing deficit and the immediate obligation to reduce the environmental impact generated by the construction industry. Faced with this dilemma, the proposed research unfolds from the work previously carried out and presented here in the form of a portfolio. It focuses on the practical possibilities for the large-scale industrialization of renewable materials in which wood will play a central role.

Besides its renewable productive potential, the importance of researching wood construction lies in its historical architectural value (from Brazilian indigenous houses to the Japanese pagoda) as well as in its abundant existence in underdeveloped areas around the globe, where the material is mainly burnt or exported instead of being used as a means to meet the housing needs for growing local communities.

The use of wood on a large scale has historically been an extractive relationship that disregards renewable practices and overconsumes available resources. In many cases, such as in Africa and South America, wood was collected and shipped to metropolises overseas, causing great ecological damage and a lack of development in construction technology in the colonies. In recent times, the advancement of control techniques, methods for increased production, more efficient processes of forest management and environmental impact reduction have made wood cultivation conceivable for its responsible use in architecture. However, such use occurs mostly in developed countries located in the climatic temperate zone, while many regions with faster forest growth (cubic meter per year), located mainly in the tropical and equatorial zones, do not explore its potential to fulfill the great need for new affordable housing.

The research, therefore, will occur in two major climatic zones: the temperate and tropical. The first climatic range (Canada, France, Austria, Japan) has the greatest technical development in the use of wood and lower forest growth speeds. The second climatic zone is where very high productive capacity is concentrated, in countries like Brazil, Chile, Congo and Australia, with, in many cases, a much lower development of the productive chain and a great need for new dwellings.

The growing demand for housing does not come as a surprise, it was treated diligently by architects during the modernist period, many times through indiscriminate replications of generic buildings, carried out with non-renewable materials and high CO2 emissions. However, with the critical and historical perspective of today, we understand the impossibility of promoting an architecture that does not engage in the productive processes and critical analysis of the society in which it is inserted, considering environmental issues that were less pressing in the past.

Consequently, in the face of this contradiction between production, the demand for new housing (27.7 million new dwellings are needed by 2020, only in Brazil) and the development of local knowledge, the research seeks to understand, merge and extract experiences from the forest, traditional architecture methods, current systems of production and its usability as contemporary architecture, drawing common lines of interest that can be shared among different historical and climatic backgrounds.