Using Trees As They Are


Exhibition in the Daniels Faculty’s LWR Gallery. Short observations, 300 photographs, a new collection titled ‘Other Wood Pieces’ and a replica of my home workshop that I worked in for two months.

‘Using Trees As They Are’ was put on at the culmination of my two-year Emerging Architect Fellowship at the Daniels Faculty. The exhibition contained two pieces of furniture that were design and produced collaboratively with students in my Beech Thicket Build the summer before: a stool by Danny Kim, Dara Abu Khajil and Osaze Smith, and a lounge chair by Dara Abu Khajil and Sophia de Uria.

The exhibition concluded in a public lecture.


I’m Zac.

An architect, educator and maker who works with trees, my work integrates digital methods alongside craft and material knowledge in pursuit of better ways to build.

Known for projects that demonstrate ways to put together non-linear bits of tree, I’ve started to apply the same set of tools for close observation to a broader range of materials and their sources. This exhibition is about trees and an approach to working with the best properties of their products that I have been refining both intentionally and not, for years.

Before joining Daniels, I lived in and led Hooke Park, a 350-acre working forest occupied by the Architectural Association (AA), as an unusual second home. Time in this forest was transformative: as a student, I led the Tree Fork Truss project; staying on as a tutor allowed me to collaboratively foster a series of ambitious student builds in the years to follow; and from 2018, I led Hooke Park as its Warden.

While green credentials guide many’s interest in wood and trees, my own engagement is rooted in wonder. Here are the oldest living beings on Earth whose bodies are self-optimizing, self-repairing structures that embed the environmental systems they require for life. Trees and their relatives territorialized the Earth, and their products have been critical at every moment of human technological development. More could be said here.

When we build with wood as we do, using just a few species and forms, we directly contribute to an ongoing and pervasive simplification of forest ecosystems around the world. If we could re-diversify the ways we build with wood, we could actively encourage the re-establishment of healthier systems by the act of building.

My approach has slowly grown. It sees material sources all around and values most those that are nearby. In it, digital toolsets are applied alongside traditional knowledge to do as little as possible to make long-lasting and beautiful things.

The exhibition is presented in a number of sections. In this space, I have:

  • Offered thoughts gained over years working closely with and teaching about tree building
  • Gathered photographs of trees, wood pieces, assemblies and moments in time that have contributed to my approach
  • Animated detailed 3D point cloud data depicting an elder maple tree in Nova Scotia, and one of my favourite bits of Hooke Park
  • Created a reproduction of my home workshop that I will spend most of January and February making new work within
  • Presented a growing series of other forest products that might be worked with in place of the sheets and boards we know so well
  • Offered my thanks to all of those who have contributed to this work as inspiration, collaborators, friends and family

Jared Rishikof
Sheri Clish