Constructive Land

Reforming Materials, Regenerating Landscapes
An academic-industry partnership programme of research, experimental pedagogy, and prototyping—looking into lesser-used timber as building materials, and making links between construction techniques, supply chains, and large-scale landscape management


It is both blatantly obvious and too often forgotten that materials come from landscapes, and that those landscape are shaped by the way we produce and use materials. In order to meet the demands particularly of the construction and agricultural sectors, rural land is industrialised through intensive, often monocultural forms of management. Such degenerative forms of material and food production, especially under the pressure of the market, can be highly destructive resulting biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and damaging local economies. 

This is not to say, however, that landscapes—and particularly woodland—should be left alone. Diverse ecologies thrive on disturbance, and human intervention can be positive. What Constructive Land suggests is that in order for this to be the case, we need to rethink what we mean by “productive” woodland, and the values reflected in this definition. 


Constructive Land is an ongoing project by the architectural research practice Material Cultures in collaboration with Forestry England and the Spatial Practices programme at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. It considers the impact of existing timber construction systems on the British landscape, including the effects of standardisation, market-determination, and fragmentation of the construction industry. As the demand for bio-based materials such as timber increases due to its key part in the decarbonisation of the built environment, landscapes are subject to increasing and competing economic and ecological pressures. 

Constructive Land aims to develop alternative regenerative material cultures through a combination of practical and material research ranging from on-site activities in Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire, to contextual and strategic research into the relations between material, land, and building systems. The project includes a significant educational programme of building a new ecological curriculum in post-carbon construction.  

Exploring alternatives to building with materials from monoculture plantations, researchers on the project engage with the larger construction system to investigate possibilities beyond established industrial practices.1Summer Islam, ‘Production Studies: Production Pedagogies’, Central Saint Martins, London, 17 November 2022. They promote unused species, cut in sustainable ways, for example, using round wood, coppiced wood and ungraded wood that are not conventionally selected for industrial purposes. Working with students, the researchers detail and build at a 1:1 scale prototype ideas while offering students construction and project management experience. They describe the project’s aims as follows:  

“By questioning the nature of a “productive” woodland, our project will investigate the different benefits and outcomes of woodland management, from climate resilience to increased biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Productive woodlands have the potential to source innovative new low embodied carbon materials which could transform the built environment, whilst also building regional supply chains across the country. The recalibration of our landscapes away from extractive practices toward a new model of regenerative land management, one which fosters regenerative resources, provides an exciting opportunity for construction innovation.”2‘2021 European Research Prize: Constructive Land’, SOM Foundation <> [accessed 13 December 2022].

Constructive Land proposes to reimagine the relationship between buildings, landscapes, and materials, incorporating traditional materials with new ways of building, and new forms of agriculture and forestry management. It also suggests that linking with other industries, such as Forestry England and Woods into Management, might enable more holistic and resource-conscious decision-making to benefit social infrastructures and climates alike. 


  • 1
    Summer Islam, ‘Production Studies: Production Pedagogies’, Central Saint Martins, London, 17 November 2022.
  • 2
    ‘2021 European Research Prize: Constructive Land’, SOM Foundation <> [accessed 13 December 2022].

External links

Similar practices using the same techniques and investigating the use of biobased/biocomposite materials include the re-emergence of hempcrete as a building material in France, as seen in Lemoal Lemoal’s Pierre Chevet sports hall (2019) 

Firesticks—on land management and human-land relations