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Wood. Can we still call it that?

27 July 2021

The new generation of high-performance wood materials offers unexpected hi-tech possibilities to the worlds of design and architecture

Designed to be biodegradable and carbon neutral, the materials of the future are destined to be bio-manufactured, bio-derived, biobased. In all likelihood, to keep their impact low, we will arrive at an idea of ad-hoc cultivated materials. This scenario, which is changing the parameters of innovation, asks us all to rethink the way we mentally categorise materials.

And it requires designers and architects to change the way they choose and use materials. All materials, including the most traditional, are being updated in technical terms. Foremost among these is wood, which, in view of a sustainability profile increasingly aimed at impact minimisation and sustainable forest management, is surprisingly acquiring performance features that are entirely comparable to those of hi-tech materials.

Driven by hi-tech innovation, made possible by changes performed at the level of its nanoscopic structure and transformation processes, today wood offers an extraordinary plurality of languages, both technical and formal, while always remaining a natural material. Wood can be transparent, liquid, as resistant as steel or concrete, expanded, 3D-printable, flexible, sewable. And much, much more.

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