SlotLab – Werkstatt
Building in wood: impetus for the regional economy
Niels Groeneveld, architect and founder of architecture firm Werkstatt, likes to build in wood. He accepted for SlotLab the challenge to design a reconstruction of the roof turret of the 17th-century gate tower of castle ruin Schaesberg, but with locally sourced wood.
As early as in the 19th century, constructors innovated with laminated wood structures made of thin, composite parts of wood. “These wood structures were held together with ingenious connections made of steel or wood. The advantage of this is that you can take the construction apart and reuse the wood.”
For the design of the tower cover, Werkstatt elaborates further on the strategy of the 19th-century engineers but now with the knowledge of the current wood-building technique. “Traditional craft work is very expensive nowadays, whereas industrial production is becoming increasingly cheaper. So why not use new technology to keep renovation affordable?”
Groeneveld’s design combines both old and new techniques; this results in a hybrid and layered construction that aims to show the versatility of wood. To further investigate the principles, Werkstatt realizes a prototype of the tower at scale 1:10. Groeneveld: “We would like to present our proposal to various stakeholders, such as the local monuments committee. Even if it was only to start a conversation about the way in which the reconstruction of heritage is handled in South Limburg.”
In South Limburg, people have traditionally been using natural raw materials such as marl, lime and clay. Groeneveld hopes that the local construction industry will be able to reinvent itself through the use of biobased materials such a s wood, hemp and flax. “If there is money to be made, then it also offers opportunities for young people to train in the craft and thus allow the regional labor market to keep its appeal. Besides, this is how you also strengthen the self-esteem of the region.”
This is the fourth article in a series of six articles on the SlotLab, an initiative of Simone de Waart (Material Sense), Aryan Klein (Slot Schaesberg) and Machiel Spaan (M3H architects) in the context of the Internationale Bau Ausstellung (IBA) Parkstad.
Text: Teun van den Ende