There isn't any question in architecture that we cannot answer with wood.

Thomas Allocca

Viking  and  Celtic Archetypes

Medieval Historical Models

Viking architecture was mainly a wood-based building technology, needing very effective solutions to resits to the extreme climate and geological conditions of the Northern lands. Polar winds and snow storms, rain, ice and fire, earthquakes, have been the natural forces against which Viking architecture needed to fight, and it won. Without any doubt Viking longhouses have been one of the most amazing pages of the world wooden architecture history. Light and quick to build-up and to dismantle, for quick moving or expansions, easy to repair, highly resistant to loads, but at the same time extremely flexible, warm without mechanical systems even at polar latitudes, the langhus is the main source of research and development for White Oak Arkitecture antiseismic and low-energy building systems.


Reinterpreting Viking models, we have developed our solutions. The seismic resistance of our houses makes possible that the more the structures are stressed under loads and external forces, the more the joints become closed and effective, creating a very synergic tight but flexible structural system. Structures dance with the earthquakes, they do not simply shake. The thermic resistance of our houses is based on differenciated transmittance, reducing the vapor in the air and do not allowing to it the condensation process. This means minimum need of cooling and dehumidifying systems. Our houses are comfortable all year round, whatever the latitude is. They are warm in winter and cool in summer, with the minimum need of mechanical systems and energy consumption. All these advantages, also mean houses with the lowest carbon footprint and the highest realty value.

Celtic Spirituality

When I was living in Ireland I was fashinated by the Celtic concept of beauty and spirituality as a synonym, and nature as the threshold between visible and invisible, the gate of the transcendence. Trees were the most sacred natural element of Celtic spirituality, and oaks the most sacred trees. Anything was made of wood, it was sacred, amuletic, it was belonging to the threshold. And this is the design philosophy of White Oak Arkitecture. When in 2017 I found the firm, it was clear to me that 'white oak' was the best name of the company, for keeping me connected to the threshold and to Ireland.

"I will never forget the horrific sound of my childhood home cracking all around us, in the darkness of the night, while me, my brother and my parents, all together in just one hug, were protecting each other just waiting the end of the earthquake. I was 9 but everything is still clear in my memory as it was yesterday. And yet, from that terrific experience, I learned the most precious lesson for my work: only bad-built houses can kill people, earthquakes can only invite to dance the good ones."


Antiseismic Research

In 1980, the Irpinia's earthquake damaged my family house. It was one of the most terrific earthquakes in the history of Italy. Hundreds of thousands of houses collapsed like sand castles in a rainy day. Also the most modern concrete buildings were severely damaged, destroying their common mythical consideration as the future, as the eternal material. Our condominium needed two years of work before we could go back home, and it was just ten years old. I was so shocked by that experience that since my first studies of architecture I have been obsessed to become an expert of antiseismic systems. And today, after fourty years, the idea of concrete as the mighty solution is always more like a failure of architecture, just a needed passage but nothing more, always more archaeology if compared to wood-based building technology. I have spent long time in making researches, looking for historical archetypes, travelling as much as I could, learning timber framing systems and ancient carpentry, where the secret of their mighty resistance is the jointing. I have been living in Ireland, Iceland, United States, and when I found all the answers to my questions into medieval carpentry, I was in peace with myself. I knew that I could finally contribute through my work in making safer houses, for avoiding to other children my horrific experience. White Oak Arkitecture was born from fear and challenge. The fear that I lived. The challenge of helping the world of being scared by bad built houses, not by the earth's dance.

"Leonardo da Vinci said 'earthquakes are the demonstration that the panet is alive'. So, if we cannot avoid them, we can avoid to be scared of them through well built architecture. And wooden architecture is the best occasion we have of dancing with the planet."


Not Scared  by  Fire

The Luxury  of  Wood

December 2011, my first meeting with Paolo Portoghesi happens by chance. We are flying back to Italy on the same aircraft to Rome, me coming back from New York, he and his wife Giovanna back from Frankfurt. We are in the same row of seats, Paolo at window, Giovanna in the middle, me on the corridor side. I recognize Paolo and soon I introduce myself, honored to fly in their company, meeting in person one of the European masters of organic architecture. We talk about wooden architecture, trees, medieval spirituality and archetypes, and he recalls an interview to me published on his magazine Abitare La Terra six years before. Hours pass like minutes and we stop to talk just because the aircraft is landing. We met again months later at their house in Calcata. I bring with me a new anti-seismic dry-joint system inspired by Viking architecture, and showing how it works, Paolo says "it is strange Thomas, as at my honorable old age, after so many projects and books, I still have regrets... regrets to have underestimated the potentialities of wood... used so few times compared to concrete". And I add "there is something that concrete will never be capable to give to architecture: real luxury as timeless beauty". And he says "yes, and also the humbleness of wood, because we need more humble architecture, too much worried of appearing and dominating the scenes, while it should disappear into nature, integrated to it".


There is a place in our life, in everyone's life, where for the first time we feel at home. A place where for the first time we experience the consciousness of being born for beauty. This place is always a book.

Thomas Allocca

Thomas Allocca (June 2018), New York. The Elusive Certainty, ISBN 9791220033732, photos by Camilla Francesca Filograna, publisher Other Size Gallery, Milan, Italy, paper book, 24x24 cm, 80 pages, 45 photos. 100 $