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Unique Wooden Building Wins Acclaim

Unique Wooden Building Wins Acclaim

An iconic structure in an iconic setting has won the community section of the inaugural Trans-Tasman Timber Design Awards. This is the recently opened and highly imaginative visitor centre at Waitomo, New Zealand.

Brought to life by a Dunning Thornton engineers, Architecture Workshop, Hunter’s Laminates and Hawkins Construction, this wooden-ribbed gridshell building sits amongst native bush in the internationally known tourist location of the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves in the central North Island.

“It captures the environmental and cultural values of the location with its complex wooden structure containing echos of the Maori traditions which are so much part of the area,” says Geoff Henley, Programme Manager of NZ Wood, the New Zealand sponsors of the awards.

“Creating this structure was clearly a very challenging undertaking and from a timber design and construction point of view it is showing the way in what can be achieved in wood, in multi-storey and multi-dimensional timber construction. It also demonstrates what can be achieved through collaboration between the various parties to the construction,” he says.

Three sections were offered in this first year of the Trans-Tasman Awards. There was no overall winner offered. The categories were:


Two outstanding Australian entries won the two other categories. Winner of the residential category was the Burridge Read residence presented by architect David Boyle of David Boyle Architects. Set on a sloping wooded section adjacent to a national park, it captures the essence of its setting. This outstandingly crafted dwelling has a sculptural quality.

“The imaginative design and detailed crafting of this building propelled it into first place in the recent Australian Timber Design Awards and it is a worthy winner of a Trans-Tasman Award,” says Andrew Dunn, chief executive of the Australian Timber Development Association, the Australian sponsors of the awards.

The final category for commercial construction was also won by an Australian entry – The Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa. Sitting under the craggy and angular Blue Mountains and surrounded by 1600 hectares of national park, this luxury lodge has a strong sense of environment and place. The architecture is honest, refined, and quiet, deferring to the natural beauty, scale and complexity of its unique site. The design references identifiable Australian rural building forms, and enriches them with refined contemporary detail elements, allowing the character of the buildings to unfold slowly.

“This is another structure where wood is used to express the essence not only of the building but its location. Also a category winner in the Australian Timber Design Awards, this is an example of a trend towards using traditional materials such as wood and stone to produce a structure of human scale and affinity,” says Andrew Dunn.

“We are delighted that such a classy line-up of examples were available for our judges to pick from,” says Geoff Henley.

The judges were drawn from the panel of judges used in each country’s national timber awards including Elvon Young and Ross Davison from New Zealand and Kate St James, Richard Hough, Michael O’Donnell and Brian Hopper from Australia.

In this first year the awards earn the winners prestige rather than prize money.

“We will be interested to gauge the level of interest in these awards and that will help our respective organisations in Australia and New Zealand decide whether Trans-Tasman awards are a valuable addition to the portfolio of opportunities for recognition for construction design and build professionals in Australia and New Zealand,” says Geoff Henley.

“There is a strong trend towards to the use of wood in all sorts of design and construction. While these awards celebrate top-end design and achievement, the use of wood in the wide range of residential and non-residential, and commercial applications, is bringing new dimensions to the built environment in which we live, work and play.”


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