As a solution to the scarcity of large trees, and thus large pieces of timber to use in construction, engineers have developed various types of wood products. These products use technology to allow them to have less waste and to be stronger than regular lumber. But where do products like OSB, plywood, and LVL fit into architecture? Are they simply a means of carrying load and redistributing forces or do they serve a greater aesthetic purpose?
Many Architects have begun to embrace the functional and aesthetic qualities of engineered wood products. The Orchre Barn in Norfolk County, England is an awesome example of OSB becoming more than simply a cheap means of sheeting the exterior of a building. The owners of the barn, Carl Turner and Mary Martin wanted to maintain the wood exterior of this 5,000 square foot 1850s agriculture building and bring new life to the interior. They decided to develop rooms and spaces within the barn using several sheets of OSB. Everything from the cubicle-like spaces to the pieces of furniture within the home to the floor, are all made from OSB. This allows for minimal intervention on the historic structure while creating a comfortable and habitable space for the couple.
Another awesome use of OSB in an innovative way is in the Summer Café in Ufa, Russia by Dark Design Group. This building uses OSB in a more traditional fashion on the exterior of a building but leaves it exposed to the elements. The temporary structure takes the traditional wooden truss and slightly tilts them to create various openings in the sides of the structure. OSB is then used to sheet the trusses creating an unfinished but very modern look. Because it is a temporary space, OSB makes it easy to disassemble in the fall and the OSB can then be reused for another building.
Awesome precedents! The way we use particle wood seems to be a way of abstracting just the structural quality of wood from the original product. We no longer have to deal with knots or other natural weaknesses that can occur. It makes me think of concrete and how it abstracts the structural quality of stone without having to quarry huge chunks of masonry units. Is this abstraction just a tendancy of our times or is it advancing a material to another structural level?