Blackened Wood Architecture: A Dark Take on Sustainability

A material that has been used for centuries, charred and blackened wood has returned to vogue in recent years for its durability, striking appearance and sustainable credentials. We look at some of the projects bringing environmentally friendly design back in black

The Woodhouse Hotel

Tuanjie, China

Architects: ZJJZ Atelier

Comprising of a variety of cabins spread across the sloped site in China’s Guizhou Province, the Woodhouse Hotel pairs charred timber with graphic outlines. Each cabin features a different shape, providing character and uniqueness for every guest, while the use of stilts ensures stable spaces while minimising disruption to the natural environment. While the structures have a distinctly modern feel, the material is designed to echo the surrounding landscape, while seemingly random window placements capture the most dramatic views from the site.

Image courtesy of Laurian Ghinitoiu

R Apartment

Valencia, Italy

Architects: Francesc Rifé Studio

An interior renovation of a 1929 apartment in Valencia, the R Apartment features black-stained wood partitions throughout to provide an evocative, moody feel. The architects have opted to use the material to provide dramatic contrast with the apartment’s preserved original features, notably the tiled ceiling and floor. The wood covers much of the space’s new partitions, which redefine the apartment’s layout to provide a more open-plan environment, while the floor provides a sense of its original design.

Image courtesy of David Zarzoso

The Sleeve House

Hudson River Valley, USA

Architects: Actual/Office Architects

A holiday home in upstate New York, The Sleeve House demonstrates an unorthodox approach to using blackened wood by placing boards of a variety of thickness at erratic intervals along the building’s façade. Positioned flat and on-end at a slant, the wooden boards are used to provide texture to the building’s exterior, while also offering shading to the building’s interior. Here the slats continue as a dramatic means of delineating the house’s vertical space, creating defined areas in the otherwise vast rooms.

Image courtesy of Michael Moran

Nicole Hollis Office

San Francisco, USA

Interior Designers: Nicole Hollis

A project to create offices for the interior design studio in a former industrial building, Nicole Hollis’ use of blackened wood creates a serene yet graphic aesthetic. The blackened wood cubes at the heart of the otherwise open-plan space are used to house the studio’s project library and provide a stark contrast to the white office desks and fixtures and glossy floor. The black and white aesthetic is echoed in other parts of project, with blackened wood used in bookshelves and meeting room furniture.

Image courtesy of Laure Joilet

The Black House

London, UK

Architects: Simon Conder Associates

Designed as an affordable rooftop extension to a former warehouse in Hackney, east London, the Black House is created with lightweight insulated timber panels to reduce the load on the building below. The superstructure was prefabricated and craned onto the building in sections in order to reduce disruption to the design studio occupying the space below, and features timber columns that are aligned with the warehouse’s window openings to provide a sense of harmony between the two parts of the extended building.

Image courtesy of Paul Smoothy