For thousands of years, man has shaped timber into various forms to serve his needs, using it to manufacture functional objects and as a building material. Scarcely any other material conjures so many associations as wood does – in all its forms, from the living tree to the artefacts into which it is worked.
Until well into the 20th century, the ability to judge the quality of the timber in an unfelled tree was a widespread skill in forest areas, and the material has been used in spheres as demanding yet different as shipbuilding and instrument-making. Even if timber construction today is determined largely by technical and functional needs, the material still possesses a rich imagery. The prejudice that it has a short life or is suitable only for provisional purposes is disproved by the many historical timber structures that survive, from Japanese temples to Norwegian stave churches. Buildings like the holiday house on Lake Constance, erected in 1937 by Alfred Roth and still in excellent condition today, demonstrate that even modern examples of timber construction can have a long life, provided that adequate protective measures are taken.