In a Design and the City episode - a podcast by reSITE on how to make cities more liveable - Vancouver-based architects Michael Green and Natalie Telewiak advocate for more sustainable building on Earth, with a special mention for one of their preferred materials - wood. The interview sees the two architects balance the benefits and disadvantages of mass timber construction, which they are a strong proponent of as evidenced by their project T3, a LEED Gold Certified, seven-story timber office building in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
reSITE - a global non-profit acting to improve the urban environment, launched the second installment of its Design and the City podcast earlier this year, with previous guests including designers such as Thomas Heatherwick, Chris Precht, and Michel Rojkind. Covering a wide range of inter-disciplinary topics, conversations on the podcast have ranged from issues such as surveillance and security to avenues not explicitly related to architecture such as a conversation with American filmmaker Gary Hustwit.
In the conversation with reSITE, the two architects delve into the importance of sustainable design and materiality to our wellbeing. Far from being limited to a simply ecological viewpoint, however, Michael Green and Natalie Telewiak also make the case for a more holistic sustainability, sustainability that is rooted in the local ecosystem of a project and takes into account affordability, community and connection when embarking on new project. The fact that their firm is based in the Canadian city of Vancouver plays a strong part in how the two practitioners approach design, as they cite the unique urban-yet-rural make-up of the city as a stimulant for architectural inspiration.
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One of Michael Green Architecture's standout projects - the Ronald McDonald House of British Columbia - is also a key topic in the interview. Built as a "home away from home" for families with children receiving medical treatment at BC Women’s and Children’s Hospital, the project, Natalie Telewiak explains, stemmed from the question "what does wellness support look like, and how can architecture impact that?" The design for the project developed from an idea of "encircling" spaces of support around an individual, whilst at the same time providing a diverse array of spaces - "spaces for both quiet and togetherness" explains Telewiak.
The podcast episode then sees Green and Natalie Telewiak reflecting on the mass timber industry, its viability, and its suitability in an age of a more climate-aware global population. Green mentions how wood is a cheaper building option in Vancouver, but recognises that this might not be the case in many places globally. "In different cities and different places around the world, that story will be different. It depends on the cost of labor, the access to steel or concrete, versus wood," he says. Even with this in mind however, Green is optimistic about the future of wood construction in design. "There are a bunch of variables, but there's no question that the future of this way of construction will be completely competitive, cost-wise, with concrete and steel," explains Green.