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Salvage Networks

Faced with the need to salvage wood, the studio quickly initiated a spiderweb of salvage networks.  These networks were mostly generated from contacts with local UVA and architecture school alumni.

Initially this was a challenging process for students who had little experience outside academia, but almost all of the architects, contractors, craftspeople, fabricators, and suppliers really wanted to help.  These contacts gave students tips about potential sources.  More importantly, they also suggested better ways to build the network.  For instance, a local builder suggested that the students needing end cuts from particular grades of lumber might call suppliers. Suppliers would know when local contractors would be working with the desired grade of lumber, so student calls could be more targeted.

Once established, the networks almost grew by themselves, with students continuing to receive emails about salvage opportunities after the projects were finished.

below:  the process of collecting salvage takes students to interesting and varied parts of the local landscape

lumber, salvage, McMansions, material research, scavenging, job sitesabove left:  waste from new estates |  above right: a friend helps to find the best wood in the pile | photos by Kelly Reed

below:  students find treasure in unexpected places

dumpster diving, salvage, material research, forest products, landscape architecture, Crozet Virginia, UVAphoto by Kara Lanahan

Importantly, several salvaging visits to the same site offered the opportunity to learn about various stages of construction process.

construction process, Crozet Virginia, salvage, material researchweek two visit:  formwork | photo by Kara Lanahan

The expanding networks opened up a different world for the contractors and craftspeople as well the students.  Almost everyone we contacted was interested in the project and eager to help.

salvage networks, Albemarle County, recycling, material research, architecture, landscape architecture, sustainability, forest products, Virginiasalvage network diagram by Kelly Reed

Salvage Details:  size, color, joints

Construction strategies for salvaged wood will be different from those for first-use wood.  Salvaged pieces of wood are wonderfully unique:  they are a variety of species with different grain patterns, colors, structural characteristics, etc., they are non-standard sizes (typically small), and they might resist joints involving a right angle.

Students working at Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries developed approaches for simultaneously working with small sizes and different wood species.  The Convivial Bench and Modular Seating Unit was constructed from thin ripper cuts from Gaston Wyatt Architectural Millwork.  The strips were selected for color, and then laminated to create surfaces with the desired proportion.

lamination, forest products, material research, Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries, architecture, woodworking, sustainability, Gaston&Wyatt

convivial bench process lamination | photo by Lauren McQuistion

By contrast, Kara Lanahan and Kelly Reed established a module specifically based on 1′, 2′, and 3′ lengths of treated lumber.  These are the most readily salvageable end cuts.

material reserch, wood flows, Virginia, woodworking, recycling, sustainability, salvage, Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries, forest productsframes for the Magic School Court | photo by Sophia Lee

The Lanahan and Reed modular pavement employs the different color tones of salvaged lumber to create a varied surface.

wood flows, recycling, forest products, woodworking, architecture, landscape architecture, UVA, lumber, Charlottesville, Abundant Life MinistriesMagic School Court nears completion | photo by Lucia Phinney
below:  tree genus is laser cut into the surface of the wood

wood flows, material research, UVA, Kelly Reed, recycling, sustainability, salvage, forest products, non-profit, public architecture, landscape, modular

Faced with salvaged lumber of insufficient length for their Mountainside Common Table, Delia Kulukundis and Ryan Ives used butterfly joints to join two tabletop pieces.  They chose darkly colored walnut keys to draw attention to the connection.

wood flows, Delia Kulukundis, Ryan Ives, material research, recycling, Mountainside Senior Living, UVA, sustainability, Landscape architecture, salvage, forest products

Sophia Lee and Sydnor Scholer found that their salvaged end cuts were all at least slightly warped.  After their test miter joint exploded, they determined that an L bracket would allow sufficient play for a sturdy joint.

garden screen, sustainability, wood flows, Mountainside Senior Living, salvage, recycling, wood joints, woodworking, forest products, Crozet Virginia, material research, UVAS

Salvage Aesthetic/Salvage Ethic

Lionel Devlieger’s work and implied advice: “let the materials speak for themselves“, was the point of beginning for student fabrications using salvaged wood.  Beyond such considerations as dimensional stability and variability of size, this was also aesthetic- and even ethical- advice.  Reclaimed wood is unique, and in a culture of material consistency and standardization, the unique becomes precious. Thus, a designer’s close attention to the qualities that differ from the standard product can increase the value of that material above “store bought”.  What this means, however, is that to reveal this special value a designer must change ingrained habits.  In current practice, one designs an artifact and then makes a decision about material.  Conceptually, the material is inserted into a preconceived shape.  This practice proceeds smoothly when one uses the standardized consumer products.  Reclaimed wood, by contrast, might require a series of initial studies of to discover how best to reveal the unique character of the piece, including some qualities that might not be immediately apparent.  This process can transform a lowly product (waste) into something of great value.

In her essay,”What is Waste?“, Benedikte Zitouni makes the point that waste is worthy of our attention because it carries memories.  As with the human, character in wood correlates with memory: the legible history of the piece is a revelation of character.  Zitouni’s final question raises the possibility that we might always look at the material and its embedded memories as the basis for a transformation. She asks:  “What if the entire city, from its first brick to its last drop of water, were thought of in cycles of transmuting matter involving people as well as things?”

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