Letter: Showcase for tropical wood

From Ms Claire Kennedy

Sir: I feel that Mary Dejevsky was badly informed when she visited Paris's new national library ("Volumes of dissent decry Paris library", 30 March) in that she failed to mention the unparalleled use of wood from tropical rainforests in its construction, other than the fact that the interior was "warmed by ... hardwood panelling".

In 1992, in the heat of the Rio Summit, when the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN warned that 17 million hectares of rainforest disappear each year, the creators of the national library decided that the new symbol of French culture was to be little more than a showcase for tropical wood. Today the four glass towers stand on a six-hectare esplanade which is made entirely of ipe, a timber from the Amazonian rainforest. Since this is a "solitary" tree - peppered throughout the rainforest roughly one every 10 hectares - the 600 or so trees needed for the esplanade meant ravaging around 6,000 hectares of rainforest. Inside, there are window shutters encased in okoume, an endangered wood from Gabon, and two other African tropical woods, padouk and afzelia, are used for the interior fittings.

In many cities a project such as this would not have been allowed in the first place due to the fact that since the late 1980s many municipalities have included policies which ban or control the use of tropical wood in public buildings.

Yours faithfully,


Association Robin des Bois

(Association for the protection

of humanity and the environment)


31 March