Dutch Architects Are Using Wood in Amazing, Innovative Ways (+Photos)

October 8, 2014 Updated: October 8, 2014

A wide range of constructions were nominated for the Dutch Wood Prize, a prize installed in 1999 to advance the use of wood in modern architecture. The Timber and Wood Excellence Prize awarded at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore is much younger, but similar in concept.

Rotterdam Central Station and a design for foldable sluice gates won, as announced on Monday. Both of these designs as well as the other outstanding nominees are featured below. 

The nominees for the Dutch Wood Architecture Prize make for a diverse list showcasing the versatility of wooda salt depot and highway support center, a train station, houses, a school, a farm shed, a church/museum. The wood structures fill derelict urban spaces or decorate city centers, highways, and waterways. 

Highway support center and salt deposit. Image courtesy of Boris Zeisser from 24H-architecture.
Highway support center and salt deposit. (Boris Zeisser /24H-Architecture)


The salt depot and highway support center designed by 24H-Architecture visibly incorporates the trees that stood at the construction site. A computer numerical control (CNC) machine sculpted the overhanging roof. CNCs cut wood according to a programmed design. The center is an architectural example of creating a building with many pieces. The roof top alone is made up of 287 wood parts. Sustainability is enhanced by the sedum roof covering to retain rain water flow, the solar cells, and all the wood used is qualified European Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood.  

Wenslauerstraat 650x450-1
M3H Architects submitted the tiny Wenslauerstreet houses. (Courtesy of M3H Architects)


The small Wenslauerstreet houses add a bit of 21st-century wooden touch to the stone inner city of Amsterdam. Three small houses are completely covered in especially sustainable mandioqueira wood. This creates a sculptured effect accentuating a warm and fresh street image.

Epoch Times Photo
Ibelings van Tilburg Architects submitted the Karel Doorman for the prize. (Courtesy of Ibelings van Tilburg Architects)


In stead of demolishing an outdated shopping mall, Ibelings van Tilburg Architects topped up the mall with 114 living spaces, an indoor garden, and a parking lot accessed by car elevators. Made of wood and steel, the building is five times lighter than its average apartment complex counterpart. The site did not have space to maneuver, so using wood and steel was essential. Prefab pieces were lifted of a truck and put into the Karel Doorman like Meccano.

Rotterdam Central Station. Benthem Crouwel Architects submitted this design to the competition. 2.162 m3 wood carry photovoltaic solar cells, another 135.000 m of wooden ceiling add to a friendly atmosphere and good acoustics. Image courtesy Jannes Linders.
Benthem Crouwel Architects submitted Rotterdam Central Station for the prize and won. (Jannes Linders/Benthem Crouwel Architects)


Winner: At Rotterdam Central Station, an enormous amount of western red cedar and whitewood creates a light and warm atmosphere with pleasant acoustics. Hundreds of laminated wooden planks carry the glass cover and photo-voltaic solar energy cells. As many as 110,000 people get a chance daily to experience this large wooden construction. Benthem Crouwel Architects submitted the project for the Wood Prize.

This design won the jury prize for being ‘an icon of modern architecture, where wood gives the immense station a human feel. Wood sets the tone, without being too dominant.’   

Primary school 'the Early Childhood Center' submitted by Kraaijvanger. Image courtesy Ronald Tilleman.
Kraaijvanger Architects submitted this primary school for the prize. (Ronald Tilleman/Kraaijvanger Architects)


At the Early Childhood Center, submitted for the prize by Kraaijvanger architects, children from the American School of The Hague enjoy light and cosy classrooms. The wooden classrooms are build around a 16th century renovated farm and leave the structural elements visible for the children. 

Verlaan en Bouwstra architects submitted the renovation of the Elleboog (Elbow) church in Amersfoort. to the prize. (Image courtesy of Verlaan en Bouwstra Architects)
The renovated Elleboog (Elbow) church by Verlaan en Bouwstra Architects. (Courtesy of Verlaan en Bouwstra Architects)


The Elleboog church stands in the midst of the historic town of Amersfoort, the Netherlands. The church was severely damaged by fire in 2007. Wood and steel roof structures were used for the renovation of the museum. The panels were built and imported from Switzerland, the steel and wood construction tested in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The combination of steel and wood makes for relatively long, slender, and strong wooden support beams supported by a minimum number of pillars. 

Epoch Times Photo
Équipe Amsterdam submitted Proyecto Roble for the prize. (René de Wit/Équipe Amsterdam)


Proyecto Roble is a cradle-to-cradle inspired, feel-good farm shed and office in one. Wood has been used to construct almost all of it. Moreover, the roof is covered in solar panels and a helophyte filter. The helophyte filterplants that filter a surplus of nutrients from wateris presumably the first of its kind on a sloping roof. The furniture is custom-made out of various woods, adding a craftsman’s touch and a warm, cozy feel.  

Wood Innovation

Two designs have been nominated for the Wood Innovation Prize. The first nominee is an “urban pause landscapes” mobile one-person home named Heijmans One. The One is submitted to the prize by MoodWorks Architects. These homes are primarily developed to make effective use of derelict urban space. But they also help young singles starting out on their first jobs to have sustainable, warm, light, and affordable homes right in the city center. 

Heijmans One. Image courtesy of MoodWorks architecture.
The Heijmans One was submitted to the prize by MoodWorks Architecture. (Courtesy of MoodWorks Architecture)


Winner: The second innovation is foldable sluice gates. The innovation lies in extra vertical hinges giving the sluices an arc shape. The design is stronger, lighter, and needs less maintenance than traditional steel doors, while leaving more room for boats inside the sluice. About 1 million euros can be saved per renovation using this new design. 

This design won the innovation prize. ‘Decision makers have hardly any other option but to embrace this innovation and put it to use.’ 

Epoch Times Photo
Royal HaskoningDHV submitted these foldable sluice gates to the prize and won. (Courtesy of Royal HaskoningDHV)