The Bartlett School of Architecture


Elin Söderberg

Image: Elin Söderberg, 2022


A Tree is Not a Forest - A Proposal for a Reforestation of the Contemporary Architectural Imagination

First and second supervisors


We live in an era of unprecedented environmental change, motivating equally unprecedented actions to combat its consequences. Exploring the forest as a model for the architectural imagination, the aim and objective of this research is to develop an alternative radical architectural response to how the discipline should engage in efforts to restore the forest ecosystem. 

An investigation of how the forest, both as a physical landscape and as an abstract concept of place, has served as a stimulus for the Swedish imagina¬tions is interwoven with a critical re-examination of practices of build¬ing with timber through a field study of architectural examples from the regions of Härjedalen, Jämtland and Småland. This analysis is thereafter interrogated though a proposal for a wooden architecture that aims to evoke and explore the material, spatial, structural and psychological qualities of the Swedish forests.

In a society committed to goals of progress looking back is often seen as regressive. However, if we want a perspective that allows for meaningful action we must understand radical innovations as products of historically determined conditions. Time has always been jumbled up (Latour, 1993). Moreover, the perennial return to to ideas of origins has been used throughout the history of architectural theory and design both as a token from the past and as a creative stimulus to guide speculations on possible future directions for architecture as a discipline (Rykwert, 1981). 

Building on what the past has taught us about the possibilities of un-engineered timber construction, as well as exploring new opportunities in light of recent advancements in computer-aided manufacturing, this research therefore considers the old as well as the new and discusses an alternative way of looking at the history of timber construction technologies in Sweden. By using the forest as a model for the architectural imagination, it investigates the possibility for a contemporary revival of a Swedish timber architecture that aims to, once again, emanate from the primitive memories of the forest.


Born in Stockholm, Elin Söderberg is a registered architect based between London and northern Sweden. With a keen interest in the Swedish woodlands, her work seeks to explore the historical interrelationship between landscape, narrative, architecture, and ecological understandings of matter.

Elin holds a Master of Architecture (MArch) and a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Architecture from The Bartlett School of Architecture, where she is currently pursuing a PhD in Architectural Design, funded by the UCL Graduate Research Scholarship. Working across practice and research, her doctoral research draws on her previous experience as a London-based architect alongside her ongoing project restoring a timber farmstead from 1873 located in a rural village in Härjedalen, Sweden.


  • UCL Graduate Research Scholarship


Image: Elin Söderberg, 2022