Wooden Wonders: 11 quick facts about wood and timber design

13 March 2024

Emma Lucey

With its timeless appeal, durability and versatility, wood has been a constant part of human civilisation for millennia and continues to captivate us through diverse use in art, architecture, and design. Here are some quick facts about wood from history and modern times.

  1. 1. All wood is biodegradable.  

  2. 2. The bark of the ‘Cork Oak’ is used for bottle corks, cork flooring, and the core of cricket balls. 

  3. 3. One of the first tools humans ever used to create art on cave walls was around 28,000 years ago using charcoal, made from wood.  

  4. 4. The feelings of warmth and comfort that wood elicits in people has the effect of lowering blood pressure, increasing positive social interactions, and reducing stress and anxiety. As we can’t always be outside in modern times, nature can be brought indoors using biophilic design.  

  5. 5. The Guinness world record for the largest wooden building in the world is held by the ‘Finger Wharf’, also known as the Woolloomooloo Bay Wharf in Sydney.  

  6. 6. The whitest natural wood is holly. The darkest natural wood is ebony, with some species dense enough to sink in water. Ebony was often used for piano keys and other ornamental items, although due to exploitation, some species have been listed as endangered – a sharp reminder as to why buying wood that has been responsibly sourced is crucial.  

  7. 7. The most expensive wooden chair ever sold was the Dragons Chair (“Fauteuil aux Dragons”), designed by Eileen Gray. It was bought by Yves Saint Laurent in 2009 at an auction for €19,500,000. 

  8. 8. The dovetail joint, typically used in woodworking to join furniture, predates much of written history, dating back to ancient Egypt

  9. 9. The world’s tallest hybrid timber structure is currently being built next to central station in Sydney. The headquarters for Australian tech giant, Atlassian, will stand 40 stories tall and will target a 50 per cent reduction in embodied carbon and energy compared to conventional construction.  

  10. 10. Wood can be bent using steam, with the ‘White Oak’ being one of the best types due to its durability and malleability. 

  11. 11. A 7,200-year-old oak-lined water well was discovered in 2018 in eastern Europe (Czechia) and is possibly the world’s oldest wooden structure.  

  These moments from past and present emphasise the beauty of wood, its enduring charm, and the important task of guiding its application into the future.   

Photo of the author: Emma Lucey
Emma Lucey

Emma brings experience in digital media and communications with a background in several industries such as tourism and hospitality. Prior to joining Planet Ark in 2022, Emma spent 5 years living abroad in London & Amsterdam where she developed a greater interest in the environment and sustainability. Outside of work Emma enjoys gardening, camping and crocheting.

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