Every year the Timber Design Awards highlight brilliant uses of timber materials, and 2019’s overall winner is a gem.

The annual Timber Design Awards (TDA) Excellence in Timber Design Award celebrates the use of wood in architectural design. Rarely has a winner embraced the material so thoroughly as this year’s The Seed House, by architect and owner James Fitzpatrick of fitzpatrick+partners.

Built into a bush-covered sandstone hill in Sydney’s Castlecrag overlooking Middle Harbour, The Seed House is a warmly liveable home that also functions as a gallery for its carefully chosen timbers. It’s finished to a level of astonishing precision, with every connection point carefully integrated into the design.

The main structure relies heavily on CLT panels and glulam columns as well as steel, concrete and stone, with timber lining boards, joinery and furniture.

The wood used for the features represents a library of bespoke Tasmanian timbers. Light blond celery top pine lining boards came from both terrestrial and reclaimed submerged trees. Huon pine from Fitzpatrick’s long-stewarded collection appears as shelving, particularly in the bathroom and shower, where its water-friendly nature shines. The highly figured birdseye blackwood that appears in the kitchen, bookshelves and bookcases, as well as large decorative rotating fins that are designed to filter light came from a 20-year-old stash of boards that had been put aside by the log graders as special product destined for a ‘superior’ project.

“This timber deserved to be showcased in the highest possible application, in a one-off job where it could be truly appreciated,” says Tasmanian Timber Chairman Shawn Britton. The Seed House was definitely that job.

Judging is based on outstanding timber use, appearance, workmanship, structure and innovation. The apparently simple stacked pod design of The Seed House relies on complex geometries that required hundreds of hours of computer modelling and led to the development of new detailing and fixing systems. From an engineering as well as architectural and aesthetic viewpoint, it’s a remarkable achievement.

Yet for all this, it’s a welcoming design that invites people to feel at ease and meets the needs of an actual home. As Fitzpatrick wrote in his award entry: “Utilising the latest technologies in engineered timber construction, this healthy home imbues a sense of warmth and comfort. Every bracket and screw is used to inform the overall aesthetic of the home, with materials selected… to develop a patina of use and character with time. The normal is sculptured to become the beautiful. Its experimentation in construction and engineering has supported the architectural vision. It is a forever home, yet it is home to a young family. It will adapt and change as they do, forever.”

Eileen Woodbury of WoodSolutions, who were platinum sponsors for the award and the TDAs, wrote, “The Seed House is the result of such a relentless focus on achieving as close to perfection as is humanly possible.” She described 2019 as an impressively strong field, reflecting the increasing popularity of wood and wood products in the built environment.

In addition to winning the main prize, The Seed House also won Excellence in Timber Applications: Residential Class 1 – New Building. The 2019 TDA judges were Geoff Croker, Phillip Roös, Robert De Brincat and Kim Baber.

2019 winners

Of course, the TDA is about more than one prize. With extensive publicity support given to each of the category winners, there’s a lot more than just prestige on offer for the successful designers. Categories range from interiors to landscape, domestic to commercial and look at both structures as a whole and timber elements within them. The full list of 2019 winners is as follows:

Overall Winner

The Seed House, fitzpatrick + partners


Merit awards

People’s Choice 25 King: Bates Smart Architects, Aurecon and Lendlease DesignMake

Sustainability Monash University Gillies Hall: AECOM, JCB Architects and Multiplex

Innovative Structural Design Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre: iph architects with ATC Studio

Rising Star Adam Markowitz for Oak REDefined Denfair Pavilion

Small Budget Blue Mountains CLT Studio: Design King Company


Excellence in Timber Applications:

Residential Class 1 – New Building The Seed House: fitzpatrick + partners

Residential Class 1 – Alteration or Addition Brown Street House: Rod Pindar & Natalie Sciberras

Multi-Residential Fenner Hall Student Accommodation, Australian National University: BVN & Lendlease DesignMake

Commendation – Multi-Residential Denison Rivulet: Taylor + Hinds Architects

Public Buildings Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School: BVN and TTW

Commercial Buildings 25 King: Bates Smart Architects, Aurecon and Lendlease DesignMake

Interior Fitout – Residential His and Her House: FMD Architects

Interior Fitout – Commercial 1 Martin Place: Adriano Pupilli Architects & Siren Design Group

Landscape Mernda Pavillion & Playspace: MDG Landscape Architects

Furniture and Joinery Tailored Couch: Simon Ancher Studio

Stand Alone Structure Somewhere Other: Jacaranda and John Wardle Architects


Excellence in Timber Products

Australian Certified Timber Mount Mulligan Lodge: David Dubois Design + Interior Architecture

Fit-out Featuring Decorative Sliced Timber Veneers Bank of China, Sussex Street Sydney: Built and GSA Group

Imported Timber Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre: iph architects with ATC Studio

Recycled Timber Mount Mulligan Lodge: David Dubois Design + Interior Architecture

Timber Flooring Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre: iph architects with ATC Studio

Timber Panels Castle Cove House: TERROIR in collaboration with Pascale Gomes-McNabb Design

Timber Veneers Luther College Imagination Hub: Cox Architecture and Ireland Brown Construction

Timber Windows and Doors Tree Haus: Pedersen Architecture


Entries for the 2020 Timber Design Awards are open now. Any architectural structures or elements of architectural structures, which may include furniture or joinery, that make significant use of timber and have a completion date of 28 June 2017 onwards may be eligible.

For full entry details and to see the full album of 2019 winners, visit www.timberdesignawards.com.au

Image: Sophisticated engineered wood products were used in the structure of the The Seed House and a library of specialty timbers form the interiors.