The humble plywood is literally going places with some architects seeking inspiration from the material for their projects. Traditionally used as a basic lining material, plywood is being featured in design projects with amazing results.

While many look to hoop pine and timber veneers for interior lining, architect Craig Tan is approaching plywood with a different lens. Tan has used Ecoply in numerous projects as a hero material and enjoys playing with how it’s perceived.

Plywood – we love it. It's an actual material – like stone or marble or the branches of a tree. The texture is varied, its organic. We celebrate the texture and the knots of the CD face – it tells a story,” he explained.

Be it private or public projects, Tan’s business focuses on the user experience of a space, creating memorable places where people want to be.

According to the architect, the goal is to make a space that “pinches you, taps you on the shoulder – engaging people with a little trigger”.

Dancing House renovation

Dancing House hallway

Such a “pinch or tap” is used in Tan’s Dancing House renovation. A plywood enclosed bridge between the original Californian Bungalow and the new extension works like a pause before you enter into the larger space at the back. This sensory overload of plywood then opens up with a striking stained plywood ceiling angled to provide a counter-rhythm to the hip roof of the original house.

Brompton Pavilion and Brompton Café

Brompton Café

In the Brompton Pavilion and Brompton Café project, a baffled, light-stained plywood ceiling gives the feeling of clouds floating across the sky in a space that is essentially a rectangular box. It provides an intimacy and lightness, creating a space that you want to be in. Tan used Shadowclad for exterior cladding, appreciating its economical durability and ability to absorb and hold stains. Eight years on, this temporary structure still looks as good as ever.

Builders who have worked on Tan’s projects are often concerned about the use of CD grade plywood but are completely convinced by the end of the project. Tan treats the plywood as if it’s a more refined material, specifying arised edges with butt joints or mitred corners and stains by Grimes and Sons to finish the material. In terms of construction, Ecoply is easy to work with and install as it’s a panel product and is durable and economical.

Ecoply structural plywood is manufactured by Carter Holt Harvey from FSC certified, sustainably grown Australian and New Zealand Plantation Radiata Pine. Produced and supplied from the Myrtleford mill in Victoria, the plywood accrues fewer carbon miles compared to imported products.

This is good news for Tan who sees sustainability as part of the overall experience and part of the complete environment. The choices of material and how they have come to be form part of that overall experience. Tan wants people to want to be in a space he’s created, for it to be enjoyed and for them to want to come back again. And there's no doubt, they will.

Photograph credits:

Brompton Café – Eve Wilson
Dancing House – Jaime Diaz-Berrio