30.01.2023. At first it was just a terrace made from Azobé in front of NAVITAS, but then Azobé ran all around it. The civil engineering institute of Aarhus University resides within NAVITAS, an authentic powerhouse of research, innovation and excellence on the island of Aarhus, Aarhus Ø in Danish.
Star-shaped NAVITAS with Azobe terrace seen from above ⓒ Dennis Borup Jakobsen / Flickr
Azobé grows in the forests of the Republic of Congo and is harvested by Interholco according to the FSC principles and criteria (Forest Stewardship Council®, FSC® C022952) for responsible forest management. Interholco thus supplied the wood to its long-standing client Wijma, the Dutch company that managed the project on site.
Mikkel Jensen sitting on Azobe beams on the island of Aarhus, Pier 4. Photo ⓒ Mikkel Jensen
Mikkel Jensen (photo, above) is a Dane with many years of experience in the timber industry in Africa. He has since returned to study in Denmark and will graduate as a civil engineer in January, after which he will join one of Denmark’s largest timber traders, as Sourcing and Compliance Manager. Since he started attending engineering school at NAVITAS, he has walked around Pier 4 on Aarhus Ø.
Map of Aarhus Ø. All IHC’s large Azobe blocks photographed in this article are located on Pier 4.
One day, he came across some large blocks of lumber with a logo he knew: the IHC logo. The lumber was primarily sheet pile capping beams and fenders, as well as some impressive solid wood benches, which have retained an industrial look that suits the modern character of the surrounding buildings, a true architectural beauty. "This is a former container port that was reclaimed for construction purposes," he explains. "The municipality of Aarhus divided the Aarhus Ø docklands into many different lots with canals in between. The different sections of the canal, even though they look the same, were built by different companies.”
Azobe is a hardwood with remarkable natural resistance in direct contact with sea water. Photo ⓒ Mikkel Jensen
Residential projects with a capacity of 10,000 inhabitants such as the Lighthouse, Isbjerget (the Iceberg), then offices, also with a capacity of 10,000 people... those architectural wonders shine from the pages of the most prestigious design web sites. Azobe’s natural resistance to marine borers is high in these cold waters. Azobe in Denmark, as in the Netherlands, is one of the leading species, used for marine-grade lumber in direct contact with water: marinas, harbours and canals... and also for bridges, whether for pedestrians, bikes or cars.
Azobe supplied by IHC lines the channels of Pier 4. Photo ⓒ Mikkel Jensen
Everything that people dread, hope for and dream about glides along these timber clad canals, where sea and life meet: "I got certified as an FSC auditor in 2011 with NepCon (now known as Preferred by Nature)." All of a sudden, Mikkel's life was at a turning point: he joined the timber industry in Central Africa: "I started working for the industry, more on the receiving end of the audits, as a sawmill and workshop manager at big FSC-certified sawmills.
The Republic of Congo is home to the forests where IHC responsibly harvests the Azobe supplied for this project. Photo ⓒ Mikkel Jensen
I really got to see how certification has a huge and lasting positive impact for the flora, the fauna and the folk of the forest. To my mind, the healthiest forests in Africa today are the concessions of certified companies near national parks, because those companies have a strong economic motivation for holistically maintaining and supporting a healthy forest and ecosystem. After all, a flourishing and lush forest is a sound investment in their own survival and sustainable future. I am a staunch supporter of FSC to ensure that the forest is cared for, workers' rights are respected and the local population is protected."
Azobe wood benches produced by IHC dot Pier 4 on the island of Aarhus. Photo ⓒ by Mikkel Jensen
As Danish writer Peter Hoeg writes, history, like dreams, is always an invention, a tale built on certain clues. The Azobe of Aarhus is proof: life on this island tells its tale with African wood.
INTERHOLCO offers Sustainable Hardwood 'Made in Africa' as a responsible solution to promote better living conditions (construction with wood), reduce climate change, and increase social justice. As FSC-certified producer specialized in producing and trading logs, sawn timber, glued laminated scantlings and other products, INTERHOLCO manages the entire chain, from forest to customers since 1962. Harvesting wood selectively, INTERHOLCO protects 1.1 million hectares of natural forest from permanent conversion to agricultural land, giving 16’000 local inhabitants access to quality basic services and keeping the habitat of thousands of gorillas and elephants.
Communications contact INTERHOLCO
Tullia Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal
INTERHOLCO AG, Neuhofstr. 25, 6340 Baar, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)41 767 03 82