Cologne: 20.–23.05.2025 #interzum

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Material of the future: Wood innovations

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Growing numbers of designers and architects are currently devoting themselves to working with wood. As they search for natural and sustainably available materials, they are recognising its pioneering potential. A regrowing raw material, wood provides a low-carbon alternative to conventional materials such as steel, concrete and plastic, and it has a natural aesthetic. This is generating intense interest in working with and researching innovative wood products in furniture design, interior construction and architecture.

Prototype of a self-shaping chaise lounge using the HygroShape process. (Photo: Universität Stuttgart/ICD, Robert Faulkner)

New application for self-shaping furniture design

Just picture this: a flat-packed piece of wooden furniture that gradually shapes itself into a chair or table. Sounds crazy, but it’s actually possible with HygroShape. Developed at the University of Stuttgart, the process enables layered flat wood veneer to bend into the shape of a stable chair or chaise lounge as it dries in the air.

“This innovative concept opens up completely new possibilities for furniture design,” says Ursula Geismann, Home Living Analyst and Executive Officer of the Initiative Furnier + Natur, which represents the German veneer industry.

Recycled wood fibres material

Superwood – a natural composite material for furniture design and interior construction. It is produced from recycled wood fibres and a binder made of milk waste. (Source: Sofia Souidi)

Innovative composite materials made from wood waste

Like the researchers at the University of Stuttgart, other young designers and start-ups are experimenting with wood-based materials in furniture.

Projects such as the Superwood initiative aim to save natural resources as far as possible. The composite material for furniture design and interior construction was developed by the Berlin designer Sofia Souidi in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research. Produced from recycled wood fibres and a biodegradable binder made of milk waste, the innovative material meets the highest standards for load-bearing capacity and stability.

Black & White Building

The Black & White Building (design: Waugh Thistleton Architects) is the tallest timber office building in London. (Source: American Hardwood Export Council/Foto von Ed Reeve und Fred MacGregor).

The timber boom in construction

Construction is currently witnessing a veritable boom in the use of timber. Many experts see working with the natural material as a solution for reducing the construction sector’s carbon footprint.

High-rises, stadiums and entire airport terminals are being planned and built in timber construction. Recent projects such as the Black & White Building in London reveal mass timber’s potential in architecture. Just short of 18 metres, it is the tallest timber office building in the British capital.

According to the planners, Waugh Thistleton Architects, the construction generated 37 per cent less carbon dioxide than a concrete building. Timber from sustainable forestry was used for the innovative core structure.

High-rise in timber-hybrid construction

The Moringa high-rise in Hamburg’s HafenCity is set to be Germany’s first high-rise apartment complex built in timber-hybrid construction when it opens in 2024. (Source: Moringa GmbH, kadawittfeldarchitektur)

The pioneering possibilities of timber construction

Large timber buildings are also appearing in Germany. The country’s first high-rise apartment complex built in timber-hybrid construction is scheduled to open in Hamburg’s HafenCity in 2024. The planners from kadawittfeldarchitektur designed the Moringa high-rise according to the cradle-to-cradle principle: Take-back agreements are in place with the suppliers for all the materials in the building that are capable of being returned to the cycle. One particular advantage of the timber facade construction is its modular structure, which enables the component layers to be easily dismantled and separated for recycling.

Wood’s future possibilities as a construction material are also revealed by this year’s Leibniz Prize. The most important endowed research prize in Germany was recently awarded to Achim Menges, an architect and professor at the University of Stuttgart.

Among other things, his work aims to develop novel solutions in the field of computational timber architecture and robotic timber construction. His projects include extremely material-efficient fibre structures and lightweight wood building systems. So, the next innovations are already on their way, then.

Manufacturers of wood-based materials and other wood products will present their innovations at the upcoming interzum. You will find an overview in the product search of the trade fair.