"There isn't any question in architecture to which we cannot answer with wood."
Vinking and Celtic Archetypes
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.
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.
"The only houses whose realty market value grows with time, are not the richest in stuff, but the richest in stories to tell and the most visionary, in therms of physical and spiritual comfort, and of functional versatility. Telling it in a Celtic way, a house gets always more value with time, only if it is an Anamchara."
"I will never forget the horrific sound of my childhood's 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."
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."
"If we consider resilience as the ability to survive to contradictions, wooden architecture is the most extraordinary opportunity we have to survive to global warming, to improve planet's resilience against human egoism and stupidity."
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 that 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 real beauty as humbleness... we need more humble architects... b humble Thomas and your architecture will tell amazing stories of luxury".
Green Carbon Project
White Oak Arkitecture is author of the international project Green Carbon (2020), for realty and forestry interconnected investments aimed to improve the resilience of wooden architecture in the challenge against climate change. Based on a self-sustainable tree-centric economic system, the Green Carbon Project starts from forests and goes back to forests passing through luxury architecture. The Green Carbon Project is supported by an international private fund.
"There isn't a more sacred prayer than to plant a forest, because there isn't a more comfortable place than a leaf, where any god of any religion could feel at home... more than into a priceless miniated book or a majestic temple of gold."
Quercia Bianca in the land of Francesco d'Assisi
Quercia Bianca has the ambition of making possible that residents' souls and bodies can feel comfortable in the same way, because beauty is something that belongs to both of them, and we born for beauty. Preliminary project has been developed in October 2021, approved in December. Executive project is under design. Quercia Bianca is a luxury gated residential park in the town of Castiglione del Lago, on Lake Trasimeno, in Umbria, central Italy, ten one-family villas, all of them with their own swimming pool and private garden of about 1/2 acre, protected into a gated park of about 10 acres. Tennis, cycling paths, woods all around, and four levels of privacy, make this residence park something unique. Nothing like this has been built yet in the whole Umbria. In this project, the concept of luxury has been conceived first of all as linked to the concept of quality of life, privacy, safe open spaces for children. All villas are embraced by sun all day long. Structires are highly antiseismic, low energy, with high-tech timber solutions for main structures, glass and local stone to complete the rest. Carbon footprint of the whole project will be compensated by the treed park inside the gated area, mainly oaks, birches, bamboo. At the entrance, an American white oak will sign the project by White Oak Arkitecture.
"We can find much more architecture in anonymous rural houses than in spectacular skyscrapers, which are no more than boxes containing those who enter as a person and they exit like a number. Skyscrapers are not the solution, single-family homes are the solution. The point is we need to find space for everyone, not turning people into numbers."
Birki the magic of villa Bamonte
text and drawings under development
building permission requested on May 2022
"It was in Iceland that I learned the secret of resilient architecture, developing the concept of arkilience. And it was a white birch to teach it to me."
Astramed Medical Center