Oxford Brookes University secures £5 million funding from Arcadia to document the world's endangered wooden buildings

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Endangered wooden buildings

The School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University is to host a £5 million grant-giving programme, which will improve the documentation of endangered wooden architecture throughout the world and make records freely available online.

The Endangered Wooden Architecture Programme (EWAP) has been made possible through a grant from Arcadia - a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, and will be delivered in collaboration with CyARK, a non-profit organisation that digitises and shares significant cultural heritage.

The aim of the project, which is due to start in January 2021, is to provide funding to researchers to establish an open-access digital repository, which will document endangered wooden building traditions and preserve records long term. The programme will also develop research capacity, foster new collaborations and initiatives, and raise awareness and appreciation of wooden architecture around the world. 

There is an urgent need to document the endangered wooden architectural heritage, before much of it disappears. I hope the results of the programme will provide a tangible legacy which can be accessed by all. It will hopefully also provide inspiration to a new generation of architects and engineers who are re-discovering timber as an environmentally sustainable and low carbon building material.

Professor Marcel Vellinga, Professor of Anthropology of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University

 The project is being spearheaded by Professor Marcel Vellinga, Professor of Anthropology of Architecture, together with Dr Aylin Orbasli, Reader in Architectural Regeneration, both of Oxford Brookes University.

Professor Vellinga commented: “We are delighted to have been selected to oversee this project, which will be transformative in documenting and raising the profile of endangered wooden buildings worldwide. Throughout time, wood has been an important building material. However, extensive and rapid global deforestation, combined with competition from industrially manufactured materials, threatens the continuity and survival of many wooden buildings. 

 “As a knock on effect, the carpentry traditions and ways of life associated with them have diminished. There is an urgent need to document the endangered wooden architectural heritage, before much of it disappears. I hope the results of the programme will provide a tangible legacy which can be accessed by all. It will hopefully also provide inspiration to a new generation of architects and engineers who are re-discovering timber as an environmentally sustainable and low carbon building material.”

 

EWAP will support projects that focus on documenting wooden architecture that is endangered because of neglect, conflict or environmental effects. The programme will also support the documentation of bamboo, palm, reed or grass traditions, if a strong case for their at-risk status can be made. EWAP will pay special attention to projects in parts of the world where documentation is less developed and funding support is more difficult to obtain. 

Funding allocations will be decided by an international expert panel, composed of leading scholars and practitioners in the fields of wooden architecture, architectural conservation and digital heritage documentation.

Funded projects will produce a range of data, including digital outputs (point cloud images, photogrammetric images, scaled ortho-images, 3D models), as well as drawings, plans, sections and elevations, photographs, videos, maps, oral histories and other forms of written documentation. 

Pictured:  Traditional wooden houses of Kinnaur District Northern India, have given way to brick and stucco construction due to modernisation and deforestation, significantly changing the architectural landscape. Kannum Village, Kinnaur District, Himachal Pradesh. Author: Melissa Belz, 2011.

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