To wholly document a survey on the state of French forests, the wood industry, and forestry R&D, François Leclercq and Paul Laigle, from the architecture and urban planning practice Leclercq Associés, are in collaboration with architecture editor Michèle Leloup and photographer Cyrille Weiner.
The Wood That Makes Our Cities explores the environmental, economic, industrial, and technical challenges involved in the use of wood for large structures and urban architecture and assesses the future of wood construction. The book retraces the practice’s twenty years of experience with wood construction through five of its projects, featuring contributions by historians, researchers, manufacturers, timber producers, and forestry specialists.
Leclercq Associés seek to address arising questions concerning the likes of whether the French wood industry is sufficiently well-established to advance centuries-old techniques and develop alternatives to standard models, as well as further researching whether sensible forestry practices provide sustained capacity to meet demand and compete with resinous timber imports from Northern Europe.
The Arboretum, Campus Seine Nanterre, currently under construction and supported by Woodeum and BNP Immo, is the firm’s largest solid wood campus project in Europe. “Arboretum is a solution more than a place, it is a new approach to daily life, generous, comfortable, model par excellence of innovation and creativity", explains François Leclercq. The materials, construction method, usage, and evolution of the buildings have been designed with the intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and further maximize their resilience. The use of bio-sourced materials, the bioclimatic design, and the production of renewable energy combined make the site an honest model of sustainable development, marking a new stage in ecological transition.
Another of the firm's projects is The Nelson Mandela High School, Nantes. The site, which concentrates on a stadium, a park, and a music school, already promotes all-public access to knowledge. The High School Building is located right at the heart of these educational public spaces. It has the shape of a wooden hall, modeled on many buildings in Nantes: comfortable and bright 'inside towns' open to their near and distant environments.
Jean-Baptiste Corot High School, Savigny-sur-Orge is an extension project aimed at creating a campus identity for the school. Its centrality and the breath of fresh air it generates make the park a connecting hub for its surrounding elements. A footbridge links the buildings and shows the way along the waterside and amid the vegetation. The new buildings have a wooden structure with slatted Larchwood siding, and the use of dry, light, prefabricated elements helped optimize the management of the project while the school remained in use.
Despite the paradoxical nature of France, home to a wealth of ancient expertise with an industry that has been struggling for decades, The Wood That Makes Our Cities displays that there are solutions for economic growth being implemented within the region of Rhône-Alpes, as a result of the relentless work being put in by local industry professionals.