‘Te Whare Nui o Tuteata’, the Scion Innovation hub in Rotorua, New Zealand, recently won the PEFC-supported Best Use of Certified Timber prize at the World Architecture Festival (WAF) 2021.
The new three storey building for Scion – the New Zealand-based Crown research institute that specialises in science and technology development for the forestry and timber sector, is the culmination of a vision of a project team that weren’t afraid of a challenge and aimed to deliver a memorable timber structure.
Architect RTA Studio + Irving Smith scooped the Best Use of Certified Timber prize, supported by PEFC (Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification) and judged by an international panel of architects. This added to the 14 domestic and international awards the building won in 2021.
“The judges were particularly impressed by the project design which featured the unique diagrid wall frames,” said Australian architect and sustainability expert, Mark Thomson, who chaired the WAF judging panel. “The project used PEFC-certified laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and cross laminated timber (CLT), from certified forests in New Zealand. Forest certification plays an important role in demonstrating that timber has been sustainably sourced and PEFC is recognised as the largest forest certification scheme in the world.”
Andrea Stocchero, from Scion added: “Our desire was to inspire people to use timber. The NZ Institute of Architects, surveyors and designers are referencing the building to gain a better understanding of the technical performance of the wood products and the opportunities for decarbonising, that this building showcases.”
At the entrance, there are a trio of ‘peaks’ in glulam, representing the three Māori communities in the region. Visitors pass under these portals to a triple-height atrium where a curated exhibition of wood-fibre technology and a café welcomes the public with views to collaboration spaces above.
The structural diagrid rises three storeys to form the building’s skeleton. These structural elements are made of high-performing LVL, and feature dovetail node joints supplied by PEFC-certified engineered timber specialists TimberLab/XLam, that slot and glue together. The triple-height atrium leads up to a spectacular timber ceiling, inspired by the structure of a Radiata Pine, with lighting representing the Matariki night sky.
“Looking at the exterior of the building, you see a simple structure with fascinating colours that reflect the forest,” adds Andrea. “At the entrance Māori carvings tell the story of mana whenua. Architecturally, it is when you walk inside that magic happens… the contrast between the simple aesthetic exterior and the shock of entering a huge void hit. The striking timber structure, architectural lines and natural materials work in harmony with each other – that is so impactful. The essence of the building speaks very honestly about Scion’s intent. It is located amongst mana whenua’s Tokorangi forest. The symbolism is really strong, we have a forest… we have a building… we have a purpose.”
In addition to the PEFC-sponsored Best Use of Timber prize, ‘Te Whare Nui o Tuteata’ also won the WAF Award for World Higher Education and Research.
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