Ute Groba Making a case for urban timber housing


In the context of increasing focus on the environmental impact of buildings, this thesis investigates the potential of horizontally densified housing as a relevant contemporary urban timber typology for Norwegian cities. It builds upon existing research showing that timber is a suitable building material for sustainable architecture, and takes current Norwegian land use planning based on urban densification as a starting point.

In order to bring timber construction and housing at an increased density together in a meaningful way, architectural quality is of crucial importance. A positive experience of higher density depends considerably on it. However, an objective and universal definition of architectural quality is not possible. In this thesis, the notion of quality is therefore deconstructed into preferable properties of density, housing and timber construction. Several quality aspects are seemingly contradictory, and prioritized differently among stakeholders.

As part of this architectural research, master studio pedagogy as well as a competition entry explore the potential of horizontally densified timber housing to consolidate aforementioned quality aspects into a project in a Norwegian context. The students’ projects and the competition entry are used as a testing ground for general theory in a Norwegian context, acknowledging the importance of a consolidation of all relevant aspects into one design responding to a specific context. The method “grab bag” for this research by design accommodates for a broad exploration of the topic.

A concluding reflection will, rather than defending the actual design outcomes, assess how the suggested timber typology is received and discussed by municipalities, developers and architects, and thereby address the relevance of it in relation to other building types and materials.

The following research questions will guide all activities:

-        What is the potential of low-rise high-density urban timber housing?

-        What are important qualities for this range of buildings?

-        How can they be achieved with available timber construction systems?

How is low-rise high-density urban timber housing perceived by peers and the public?


Institute of Architecture / Marius Nygaard (Supervisor)

PhD started in 2015