Swedish 20-storey timber building serves as the good example in Biennale Architettura exhibition
White Arkitekter now examines how a timber project on that scale affects the forest.
22 May 2023

Last weekend saw the opening of the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in Venice. Earlier this spring, it was announced that Gothenburg-based global firm White Arkitekter has been invited by this year’s curator Lesley Lokko to exhibit in the main exhibition, named The Laboratory of the Future, aiming to solve two of the biggest challenges of our time: decarbonisation and decolonisation. As one of the few representatives from northern Europe, White Arkitekter’s contribution to the exhibition raises the question of whether it is possible to find a balance between the forest as a resource and the urgent need to preserve and rebuild fragile ecosystems.

White Arkitekter at La Biennale di Venezia.

The construction industry accounts for a high proportion of carbon dioxide emissions which can be reduced by using wood to store. The forest industry is an important cornerstone of the Swedish economy but the question of how large-scale timber construction affects biodiversity as well as the cultural significance of the forest is more complex. In the new exhibition, White Arkitekter takes the 20-storey timber building Sara Cultural Centre in Skellefteå as a starting point and examines how a timber project on that scale affects the forest. The project consists of three documentary-like films showing the forest, the forest industry, and the cultural centre and examines the project’s use of materials and the extraction of raw materials from the forest. They also include interviews with representatives from the forest industry, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, and the Sami culture to offer several different perspectives on the forest and its importance.

— In recent years, timber construction has had a renaissance. The drive to speed up the transition to climate neutrality is positive. At the same time, it is important to understand the consequences of our methods and drive the development of our cities in a sustainable way. How do we find the balance between the forest as a raw material on the one hand and protecting biodiversity and valuable ecosystems on the other hand? We want to highlight different perspectives as this is a complex issue and also inspire a discussion about how we can go one step further in our way of working with design in timber in balance with nature, says Alexandra Hagen, CEO, White Arkitekter. She adds:

— Several political initiatives such as the New European Bauhaus and the EU taxonomy are increasing the demand for sustainable architecture.