For centuries it was the pivotal point around which architecture formed, as the heat and light from the open fire spread into the space, filling it with smoke spiralling up towards a hole in the roof. The gradual transformation of the hearth over centuries eventually led to the introduction of masonry chimneys (murstockar) which would puncture through every room of the building from the foundations to the roof.
From the richly decorated brick stoves of the 18th century to the colourful tiled stoves (kakelugn) of the 19th century the hearth has served as the centre of architecture both practically and symbolically. With the introduction of modern plumbing, central heating, refrigeration and electricity in the 20th century, the hearth got divided into pipes, tubes and wires running inside the previously solid and now hollow timber walls; leading to
increased comfort and efficiency but taking away the centrality of the hearth as sole infrastructural element and, with it, the flexibility to modify internal partitions without the need skilled labour or machinery.
The timber hearth proposes to reintroduce the Nordic hearth into our 21th century timber revolution and reunite the now separated sources of heat, ventilation, water, electricity and structure into a core strong enough to hold the full load of floors, walls and roofs while condensing all services. The core would be built off site, taking advantage of the convenience and precision of factory fabrication, to then be installed on site and plugged into the grid. The core is sized to fit in a trailer and be transported to site in one single piece. Once installed, no skilled labour is required to complete the rest of the building that will be supported structurally and infrastructural by the core. Partition walls, floors and facade can be completed and modified in stages, allowing the owner to plan according to their means and needs at different times. As families grow, one may extend the roof or add platforms; construction can be carried out with friends and family through several summer seasons; or a larger structure might replace the existing one when one has the means to do so.
Wood construction allows for complex sophisticated construction as well as simple and easy structures built with basic tools and skills, it can be fabricated through advanced technological means as well as in traditional ways. The Timber Core builds a link between the ever evolving timber industry and DIY culture, between technology and craft; widening the possibilities
and options for how one may be able to realise a home for life. By rethinking not only the materials we build with, but the processes and stages of construction, we can create meaningful solutions and possibilities for the future.
Collaborators and support: Setra group.
KTH School of Architecture.
All photos by David Valldeby