FAO Regional Office for Africa

Winners of TREEHOUSING International Wood Design Competition announced

XIV World Forestry Congress contest called for sustainable solutions to house growing urban population

Jungle Gym by Ayla Harvey, one of the winners of the TREEHOUSING International Wood Design Competition

10 September 2015, Durban: The winners of the TREEHOUSING International Wood Design Competition were announced today at the XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa.

More than 200 projects by teams from 60 countries were submitted for the contest, which was jointly organized by the Canada-based DBR | Design Build Research School and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The competition challenged architects to produce innovative and sustainable designs for a growing urban population in Africa and beyond. Architects were required to use any sustainably harvested wood material or product as the primary material for their designs.

“One of the main aims of the contest was to highlight the huge potential of legal and sustainably produced wood as a cost-efficient and versatile building material, and as a valid alternative to non-renewable materials such as steel and concrete that leave a much heavier carbon footprint,” said FAO Forestry Officer Jukka Tissari.

“Growing and using wood are inseparable strategies for addressing several Sustainable Development Goals. Wood has been used as a building material for thousands of years and, worldwide, one in three houses are made from wood, yet it is a material that tends to be side-lined in larger-scale modern building projects.

“We hope the many extraordinary entries in this contest will encourage and inspire policy-makers, architects, city planners and designers to look afresh at using renewable woods from sustainably managed forests for housing, as one promising trajectory towards sustainable development.”

Tall and affordable wood housing

Canadian architect Michael Green, author of The Case for Tall Wood Buildings, led a jury that also included British architect Andrew Waugh and South African architect Richard Stretton.

For the first of the two categories in the competition, the city of Durban allotted an abandoned 2 280 square metre site, 97 Ingcuce Road, at a major intersection near the city centre to inspire tall wood housing projects.

The Grand Prize winner of this category was tied between two entrants: architecture student Ayla Harvey (South Africa) for her community ‘Jungle Gym’, praised by the jury for capturing the dynamic spirit of urban life, and Koura Studios and ARUP Seattle (USA) for their ‘Nkosi Market’, which the jury said showed good understanding of South African forestry and forestry products. The Student Award in the category went to STark (France/Germany), for ‘The Social Net Wood’, which the jury considered “entirely buildable”.

The second category challenged applicants to design affordable wood housing for a site anywhere in the world, although dealing with issues specific to the African continent was encouraged because of the location of this year’s World Forestry Congress.

The Grand Prize winner of this category went to architects Shosholoza and Friends (Italy) for their design ‘(HOUSE)TREE(WORK)’, imagined for a sustainable rural community site in Ethiopia and praised by the jury for its clarity and simplicity.  Second prize went to A.gor.a architects (Thailand) for their ‘Temporary Dormitories for Mae Tao Clinic’ in Thailand, commended for its practical affordability, and the student prize was awarded to Monika Wozniak (Poland) for her ‘Natural Wood Skin’, a design for Hong Kong that the jury appreciated for its ambitious large tower formats.

“We could not be more pleased and impressed with the number and quality of the competition submissions,” Green said. “Wood in building design is seeing a resurgence around the world as architects and designers learn to work with it in more innovative and sustainable ways.  New wood technologies are linking our rural forest economies with our growing urban environments with increasingly larger and now taller wood buildings. 

“This competition underscores the impact that architects and designers can have in reshaping our communities and cities with healthy, safe, sustainable and beautiful wood buildings that connect each and every inhabitant with the wonder of nature.”

World Forestry Congress

The XIV World Forestry Congress brings together more than 3 000 of the world’s foresters and forest supporters to share their expertise and experience, and discuss how to strengthen the role of forests in sustainable development.

The outcomes of the Congress are expected to include a new vision for the future of forests and forestry and the people who depend on them. The Congress will also issue key messages on the role of forests in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and in the new climate change agreement to be negotiated at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015.


TREEHOUSING International Wood Design Competition
Photo gallery: winning entries
XIV World Forestry Congress

Photos on Flickr:



Fiona Winward | email: [email protected] | mob: +27 (0)767058102
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