Spectacular Treetop Walk at Avondale, Co. Wicklow wins the Overall Award at the Wood Awards Ireland 2022
  • 23 Mar 2023

Spectacular Treetop Walk at Avondale, Co. Wicklow wins the Overall Award at the Wood Awards Ireland 2022

Wood Awards Ireland is a collaboration between Forest Industries Ireland and the RIAI, and supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Enterprise Ireland, Rotary Ireland and the Society of Irish Foresters. WAI is open to Registered Architects, engineers, designers, woodworkers, third level students, researchers, working in Ireland – north and south – or overseas who incorporate wood as the inherent medium in submitted projects.

At a ceremony on 23 March in Farmleigh House, Treetop Walk at Avondale was announced as the outright winner of Wood Awards Ireland 2022. Built by EAK Ireland Treetop Walks from home grown timber, the spectacular canopy walk beat off 14 shortlisted projects in construction and design.

Eight unique sculptures, designed and made in oak by Michael Warren, Ireland's leading sculptor and Honorary RIAI Member, were presented to the overall and category winners.

The judging panel for the Wood Awards Ireland were: Ciaran O’Connor FRIAI (Chair), State Architect OPW; Maria Couchman, Design & Crafts Council Ireland; Seán Harrington MRIAI, Seán Harrington Architects; Karen McEvoy MRIAI, Bucholz McEvoy Architects; and Des O’Toole, Coillte.  

"Timber has the lowest embodied carbon of any mainstream building material and this is recognised internationally as architects are now embracing timber frame and ‘mass timber’ as the most innovative and lowest carbon building systems on the market today," said Ciaran O'Connor FRIAI, State Architect and chair of the Wood Awards Ireland judging panel. "The innovative Treetop Walk at Avondale demonstrates what can be achieved using Irish grown wood," he added. "Wood is the inherent medium in all porjects from large-scale public buildings to small private dwellings, and the diverse range of innovative projects entered  from furniture to sculpture.

This year’s winners are:


Overall winner

Coillte Treetop Walk at Avondale, Co. Wicklow
Awarded to EAK Ireland Treetop Walks

Treetop Walk at Avondale is a spectacular 1.4km wooden walkway rising gradually to 23 metres, close to the forest canopy and ending at a 38-metre viewing tower, which provides 360° views of the Wicklow landscape. The walk is designed to fit seamlessly into the wooded landscape. It combines recreation with education as the walk explores the various strata within the forest and forest canopy. This complex structural and architectural projects showcases home grown timber. In all, 1,100 cubic metres of wood was sourced, which locks in 700 tonnes of carbon. The design elements of the viewing towers use glulam technology made from Douglas fir.

Coillte Treetop Walk at Avondale, Co. Wicklow
Coillte Treetop Walk at Avondale, Co. Wicklow

Category: Large-scale public building

Winning project: Beyond the Trees – Avondale by van Dijk Architects

Beyond the Trees is a new visitor centre in Avondale comprising a shop, café, exhibition space and pavilion. The project also involved extensive restoration of the existing historic courtyard buildings and walled garden. Visitors pass through the orientation space and into the cafe at first floor level, arriving at a double height volume with expansive views, continuing to the walled garden, pavilion and forest beyond. This is the first project in Ireland to use home-grown C16 (a strength standard) Sitka spruce timber for glulam structures, providing both an environmentally friendly building material and a valuable low carbon structure. Beyond the Trees also won the WAI Innovation Category award.

Beyond the Trees – Avondale by van Dijk Architects. Image: Shane Walsh
Beyond the Trees – Avondale by van Dijk Architects. Image: Shane Walsh

Category: Small-scale building

Winning project: The Forge, Schull, Co. Cork by Broadstone Architects

The existing building was the result of various extensions in piecemeal development to an historic blacksmithing forge in Schull, Co. Cork. The owners wanted to strengthen the building’s connection to the existing landscape and better capture the surrounding scenic views and the owner's maritime interests. The design sought to re-configure the existing house around the historic forge, responding to the site and landscape.  While wood is a major design element, the building is an interplay between timber and other materials. Internally, exposed timber rafters contrast with exposed steel supporting the roof while externally the upper light timber elements contrast with stone and masonry elements. . The project employs numerous types of timber in varying ways including DuraWood – a thermally modified hardwood – Siberian larch, Douglas fir, birch plywood and Sitka spruce.

The Forge, Schull, Co. Cork by Broadstone Architects. Image: Shantanu Starick
The Forge, Schull, Co. Cork by Broadstone Architects. Image: Shantanu Starick

Category: International

Winner: House in the Woods, Surrey by Tierney Haines Architects

This three bedroom 250m2 replacement house in Surrey sits within a woodland clearing, overlooking a tributary of the river Arun. The hardwood forest is part of a network of protected copses dating to the 16th century. The clients were keen to find a way of living in the woods that celebrated the unique qualities of the place and a closeness to nature. Due to strict planning restrictions on replacement dwellings, height was limited so the roof is flat. Air-tightness, insulation, and energy use have been optimised with rain water harvesting, heat-pump, HRV and solar panels contributing to a near zero energy building. Oak and ash were harvested by horses from the woodland and seasoned on site. Untreated oak was used for external cladding, while ash was used for internal joinery.

House in the Woods, Surrey by Tierney Haines Architects
House in the Woods, Surrey by Tierney Haines Architects

Category: Furniture

Winning Project, Emma Table, designed by Stephen Tierney and made by Paul O'Brien, Model Furniture

The Emma Table is designed to fit a leather banquette. The objective was to achieve a light look but a solid feel; the traditional spindles provide stiffness and a gentle pattern. The smooth curve allows easy access to the bench seat, and the legs are splayed so as not to hinder passing knees. The collaboration between designer and maker gives this table a sense of balance both in principle and reality. On one side there was the question of stability considering the edge focused pressure that will occur to aid manoeuvring into the banquette and on the other side a seeking for a refined slenderness that works with the stance, required for stability.


Special Award: Glenfort Timber Engineering

The WAI judging panel presented a special award to Glenfort Timber Engineering for its creative and innovative use of home-grown timber in construction. The contribution of Glenfort has been the key element in a number of major timber projects including Beyond the Trees in Avondale, Co. Wicklow. Glenfort engineered the Sitka spruce glulam structures, the first of their kind from home grown spruce. Glenfort's latest milestone is the design, manufacture, and installation of its glulam factory, comprising nine portal frames spanning a width of 30m and length of 50m. This sustainable structure has over 140m3 of glulam timber, which locks in 114 tonnes of CO2, compared to a traditional steel structure of the equivalent size.

Glenfort Timber Engineering
Glenfort Timber Engineering

Student Awards

Seven third level wood design, research and furniture projects were shortlisted for the third level students' awards. The overall awards was won by Laura O'Toole, TU Dublin for exploring the role of wood in decarbonising the construction economy.

Four students were shortlisted for the Rotary Ireland Environment Award which was won by a group of 20 students from TU Dublin who sourced, designed and made 12 benches for the Seamus Heaney Walk in the Devil's Glen Forest, Co. Wicklow. All timber was locally grown and sawn to reduce the project's carbon footprint. 


Shortlisted Projects

The following 15 projects were shortlisted for this year's awards under five categories: large buildings, small buildings, international projects, furniture and innovative use of wood:  


  • Alan Meredith Studio – Curio Furniture Collection
  • Alder Architects with B210 Architects – Ireland-Estonia Architectural Project
  • Broadstone Architects – The Forge
  • Cygnum Building Offsite with Myers Architects – Hackwood Primary School
  • EAK Ireland – Treetop Walk, Avondale
  • Glenfort Timber Engineering – various including Glenfort Factory
  • Healy Partners Architects – The Padel Club
  • Miriam Dunne Architects – House A: Multi-Layer Reciprocal Frame
  • MOLA Architecture – Cherrywood Timber Canopy and Biophilic Sunken Garden
  • O'Donnell + Tuomey with Joseph Walsh Studio – Passage House
  • Reddy Architecture + Urbanism – Eirigh: 'Built to Disappear' Eco Pavilion
  • Simply Architecture – Working from Home
  • Tierney Haines Architects – House in the Woods
  • Tierney Haines Architects – Emma Table
  • Van Dijk Architects – Beyond the Trees, Avondale


WAI has been won by major Irish practices and companies since it was launched in 2014. The overall winner in 2020 was Center Parcs Ireland, the popular holiday complex in Ballymahon, Co. Longford. This included mass engineered wood construction by John Sisk & Son (Holdings) Ltd and designed by Holder Mathias Architects. Past winners of WAI include Bucholz McEvoy Architects, Joseph Walsh Studio, O'Donnell + Tuomey, Donaghy + Dimond Architects, Alan Meredith Studio, Clancy Moore, TAKKA and Niall McLaughlin Architects, Cygnum Building Offsite and Alistair Coey Architects.