Thesis Defence: Shamir Panchal

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 11:00 am - 11:00 am EDT (GMT -04:00)

Tracing Timber

Shamir Panchal thesis image


Today, the big box store is where we buy our wood, but not long ago the wood that we used for the structures, finishes and furniture for our buildings might have been harvested locally from a nearby forest or even the building site. We might have been familiar with the trees growing nearby and how they could be used in craft and construction. We may have been the ones to fell, season, mill and craft the wood into our designs. Today, this close engagement with the material is rarely the case and the full life cycle of timber is increasingly difficult to observe and understand, with trees being harvested in remote forests, wood trade occurring globally and milling and craft becoming increasingly automated. This growing separation between us and the life cycle of timber is problematic. It means we relinquish an embodied understanding of the materials we use, and the places and ways in which they grow, thrive and die. It means we cannot begin to ask questions about the relationship between the wood we craft with and the trees that we experience in our cities and forests.

This thesis is an attempt to retrace the life cycle of local wood from the forest, to the sawmill, workshop, and into our homes. It takes the form of a series of exercises, site visits and built projects which opened me to the rich world of textures, colours, and experiences within our reach in the Cambridge region. It suggests how a close engagement with timber materials throughout the education of architects might foster a renewed sense of responsibility and stewardship towards the places and natural systems in which we live and build.

The examining committee is as follows:


Robert Jan van Pelt, University of Waterloo

Committee Members:

John McMinn, University of Waterloo

Anne Bordeleau, University of Waterloo

External Reader:

Paul Dowling

The committee has been approved as authorized by the Graduate Studies Committee. A copy of the thesis is available for perusal in ARC 2106A.

The Defence Examination will take place: May 6, 2020, 11:00am, closed defence.