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Curve Appeal - Massaranduba Wood

Brazilian Redwood: The Shore Vista Boat Dock 

“Massaranduba is a beautiful, appealing wood. Whether you allow it to patina to a silvery-gray or seal coat it so that it retains its reddish tone, there’s nothing like wood to warm up a space emotionally.” Dan Loe, RA, Bercy Chen Studio LP


The Shore Vista Boat Dock in Austin, Texas is a stunning multi-purpose structure located at a bend in the Lake Austin River across from Canyonland Nature Preserve. Its oval form emulates the meandering river and allows the rolling hills beyond to be captured into its visual frame.

The cylindrical, two-story dock sports a waterfall, play area and entertainment salon as well a boat mooring for travelers who reach the area. A gently sloping staircase curls around its two levels. The first floor deck is surrounded by a curved glass balustrade that parts to let the waterfall empty into the lake below. Behind the flowing cascade is a lowered beach area, which serves as a play platform and provides effortless access into the water. The boat slips into a recess in the deck.

The architects and designers of Bercy Chen Studio LP chose massaranduba (Manilkara spp.), also known as Brazilian redwood, for the Shore Vista Boat Dock. Massaranduba is a sturdy, durable, aesthetically pleasing wood, and they knew it would hold up well in an environment of intense sun and constantly churning water.

“We had used massaranduba previously for siding applications at Riverview Gardens and the Peninsula residence, and even as flooring in our own offices, so we were familiar with its properties,” said Dan Loe, one of the project’s principal architects. “We loved the color; loved its strength and durability. And relative to other tropical hardwoods, it was economical.”

Massaranduba heartwood ranges in color from light red to dark burgundy brown. The grain is straight, sometimes slightly wavy or interlocked with a very fine texture. Massaranduba is recognized by the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory as one of the hardest and most durable species available. The Shore Vista project used 1” x 6” deck boards and 5/4” x 5/4” for the beach area where river water laps the wood surface. Left untreated, massaranduba turns silvery-gray over time. When treated with an oil based finish containing ultraviolet inhibitors, it retains its plummy red color.

Loe emphasized that it’s critical to plan carefully and know what you’re doing when working with massaranduba and other exotic hardwoods. “With something like cedar wood, if you make a mistake you can probably fix it,” he says. “Not so with massaranduba because it is hard, dense and unforgiving. All sanding and milling must be done prior to the install, so you have to plan everything precisely, pre-drill the holes, seal the back sides and leave enough spacing between planks for the wood to expand in humidity.”

“There’s no room for error; you have to get it right the first time,” adds Loe. “It’s really important to have experience, field knowledge and to specify the wood appropriately. For this you need to have a good relationship with your suppliers.” He notes that his firm has a great rapport with their supplier in Austin.

“Massaranduba is a beautiful, appealing wood,” notes Loe. “Whether you allow it to patina to a silvery-gray or seal coat it so that it retains its reddish tone, there’s nothing like wood to warm up a space emotionally.”

(Story by Leah Wheeler

Copyright © 2012 by the International Wood Products Association. Published by Bedford Falls Communications, Inc. and circulated to an audience of 20,000 architects, designers, distributors, manufacturers, and users of imported wood products in North America.

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