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A London design studio has won an award for its love letter to timber, as Vanessa Norwood explains

14 Dec 2020
By Vanessa Norwood

A timber-led residential complex in south London has secured its designers top prize at the 2020 Wood Awards – the UK’s annual celebration of outstanding timber building design, craftsmanship and installation.

The Gold Award for The Rye in Peckham is the latest success for Tikari Works, a studio established in 2014 by Nicola and Ty Tikari combining architecture, construction and property development. A previous Tikari project, Pocket House, won RIBA’s London award in 2019 and received a special mention in the Stephen Lawrence Prize that year.

Judges praised The Rye’s restrained palette of carefully chosen materials and efficient model. ‘Tikari Works didn’t need to deal with the usual problems which occur when an architect’s design is being built by a contractor,’ noted head juror Jim Greaves, ‘and this seems a good model for the future.’

With quality of life at the heart of The Rye’s design, Tikari Works had two key aims: challenging standard house design and minimising materials use, embodied carbon and cost. Access to daylight, privacy and relationship to context were at the heart of the design process, resulting in two blocks unified through their roof lines and shared materials choice. The ‘sibling’ blocks were sited on a concrete plinth at ground level to reinforce the idea of a shared community. A façade of 10,000 handmade clay shingles, produced by Denmark’s Peterson Tegl factory, anchor the buildings in their redbrick Victorian context.

While it was the practice’s use of cross-laminate timber (CLT) in the interior spaces of the apartments that ensured their Wood Awards win, a considered and pragmatic approach to materials use makes for maximum impact. The use of CLT for the superstructure, all internal walls and staircases optimised construction time on site, showcasing CLT as a beautiful, cost-effective and sustainable material.

Highly thermally efficient, CLT minimised carbon emissions and reduced future energy use, with a total of 227 tonnes of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and stored in the wood structure over the course of its lifespan. Tikari Works left the CLT exposed throughout, creating large, light-filled spaces with a warm and calming atmosphere.  

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