American Hardwoods are known for their unmatched beauty, diversity of species and sustainability. Here we take a look at some of the most significant projects that have paved the way for the ongoing success of American hardwoods in Australian design.
November 27th, 2023
With over 20 commercial species of US hardwood to choose from – and each species possessing its own distinctive properties – they have rapidly become the timber choice for architects who appreciate the combination of unique aesthetic appeal and sustainable credentials.
American oaks, both red and white, are heavily favoured among Australian architects as are American cherry and walnut. The visual characteristics and versatility of these rich timbers create the perfect foundation for a project which looks to expand the limits of timber in design.
Australian importers ensure that these high quality hardwoods are readily-available and simple to procure in volume. American hardwoods have also become the top choice for joiners and flooring experts for their consistent reliability. Easy to work, their resistance to twisting and splitting has further solidified their place in the hearts and eyes of craftsman across the country.
We take a look at some of the projects through which to explore the role of American hardwoods in Australian design.
Barangaroo South in Darling Harbour, Sydney, is a $6 billion waterfront transformation project which, when fully completed, will encompass three commercial office towers, residential apartments, retail and dining spaces, and a landmark hotel. With plans to accommodate 1,800 residents, 23,000 office workers, and a focus on open public space and foreshore accessibility, it is anticipated to draw around 18 million visitors annually.
As Australia’s first large-scale carbon-neutral community, this urban renewal venture has made a feature of large quantities of quartersawn American white oak.
American oak’s hardness according to the Janka scale makes it ideal for high-traffic applications, while the quartersawing process further enhances the lumber’s stability to virtually eliminate issues of expansion, warping and cupping, rendering it the perfect enduring choice for this iconic Sydney project.
In the vibrant heart of Sydney’s Surry Hills, within the iconic Paramount House, a collaborative effort between Woods Bagot and Elan Construct has given rise to Paramount by The Office Space, a harmonious blend of function, aesthetics, and opulence in a co-working environment.
Featuring 22 private office suites, a meeting and boardroom, kitchen facilities, and an exquisite custom brass bar, the space effortlessly marries mid-century design elements with contemporary technological needs. A key to the space’s high-end allure is the extensive use of American black cherry solids and veneers.
American cherry possesses a captivating life of its own as a timber that undergoes a mesmerising evolution. This wood unfolds in phases, beginning with a fresh and almost youthful vibrancy and maturing gracefully over time. Its figurative grain tells a story, transitioning from pale pinks and creams to deep, golden honey hues. More than a medium, American cherry evokes a living narrative which breathes and ages over time, adding a distinctive chapter to its unfolding tale of design.
Ben Stibbard and Kate Fitzpatrick, Principals of Melbourne’s Auhaus architecture practice, embarked on the Brighton House project with the aim of creating an open and light-filled home on a constrained 500-square-meter corner plot in an affluent coastal suburb.
For the exterior cladding, they sought a stained timber aesthetic that would harmonise with planned green landscaping while enduring the coastal environment. American tulipwood, thermally modified for stability and durability, emerged as the natural choice. Its cost-effectiveness, lightweight nature, and ability to take and hold a stain made it the perfect solution.
“Until now we have only seen one other instance of American tulipwood being used externally in Australia and that was thermally-modified, but with a natural finish. What Auhaus have achieved here is truly impressive, both in terms of creative use of a very widely-available timber, but more importantly in realising such a stunning design,” says Rod Wiles, Director of the American Hardwood Export Council Oceania.
The award-winning design by Woods Bagot which transformed a Melbourne showroom for local cladding manufacturer Sculptform into an immersive experience is a true spectacle of American hardwood.
The space showcases the incredible beauty of timber through a sculptural timber batten-clad pathway which leads visitors on a journey of visual symmetry. This curving tunnel-like structure features timber battens which were created in Sculptform’s Bendigo factory using specialised machinery – acquired specifically for the project and since used to expand Scultpform’s unique product offering.
“Sculptform’s name inspired the design team to explore a concept for sequencing these spaces that was both immersive and sculptural,” explains Woods Bagot. “What visitors experience in the showroom is a physical and tactile connection to Sculptform’s products, processes and their makers – something that can’t be found online.”
These are just four of many examples of the sheer versatility and design flexibility of American hardwoods in Australian design applications. Explore more with the American Hardwood Export Council.
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