Wood, Urbanism: From the Molecular to the Territorial

Ironically, architects and landscape architects are their most vague in the act of specification. Designers have little idea of what specifying something as seemingly prosaic as wood could do in this century. Recently, wood has regained traction as a critical construction material for its renewability and role in carbon sequestration, yet it remains all too vague. Rather than consider wood as a generic construction commodity, this spring 2016 studio will engage the properties and propensities of timber dynamics, biophysical habitats, and social and political histories of forests as generative of its design. The studio will engage architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design students to focus on a wood urbanism for Santiago, Chile. Students will examine wood at manifold spatial and temporal scales, unpacking the entangled relationship between design, material production, thermodynamics, carbon cycles, deforestation, land rights, and biodiversity. Students will deploy the reciprocal capacities of wood, from forestry to specific instances of building and back as the basis of transscalar design proposals. More than any site or building, students will design and specify these recursive, transscalar relationships—as manifest in specific constructions, details, and systems. Chile—a country of vast forests, a major global producer of lumber, and center of both traditional and innovative wood landscapes and buildings—is in many ways formed by its relationship with wood and provides unique pedagogical insight on the latent specificity of wood.