ArchiExpo e-Magazine - #22 - Into the Woods - ArchiExpo e-Magazine

Into the Woods

This issue takes you into the woods around the world, with a special highlight on innovations in working with bamboo. We explore contemporary wooden architecture in Slovenia, the 3rd largest forest cover in Europe, and uncover some of the latest proposed wood skyscrapers for our global cities.

In addition, Salter acoustics experts discusses great products on the market and how they achieved LEED Gold for one of their projects. We covered ArchMENA in the Middle East and bring you information on its conference on transportation projects for growing infrastructure and city expansion plans; and more.


Featured cover: I Am Fashion Hub project, Bangkok, courtesy of Tangram and TreeX

Hot Topic
Finding suitable bamboo in Myanmar was only part of the story
Courtesy of Tangram

In Myanmar, bamboo is considered a poor material, unfit for large architectural projects. However, the French firm Tangram Architectes chose bamboo for its design of a seven-building school project in Myanmar. Tangram’s strong commitment to local culture gave birth to a highly technical and multicultural human...

Hot Topic
Slowly but surely, story by story, these towers of timber have moved from concept to reality
Courtesy of SHoP Architects


The latest proposals are getting higher. An 80-story timber tower in London, 40 stories in Stockholm marked by a distinctive timber façade. Completed and in-process projects are also reaching new heights: the 14-story TREET residential tower in Norway (PDF) (completed in 2015 and surpassing Australia’s 10-story Forte tower as the tallest wood building in the world), the 18-story Brock Commons student residence in British Colombia and the 24-story HoHo project in Vienna designed by RLP Architects, set to be completed in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

In what has been described as a craze, a revolution and the dawn of timber, tall wood buildings have been taking the architecture and design world by storm. Slowly but surely, story by story, these towers of timber have moved from concept to reality and set in motion a 21st-century method for building skyscrapers.

The Game Changer

“This is the future of architecture”

“This is the future of architecture,” says Andrew Waugh, principal of London-based Waugh Thistleton Architects, which is behind several precedent-setting timber towers, in an interview for ArchiExpo. “And now it’s not only happening in the U.K. but all over the world.”

For over a century, concrete and steel skyscrapers have dominated our skylines. But as climate change and a demand for more urban housing has reached a critical point, the need for a building solution that requires less energy and offers a softer carbon footprint has come to the forefront.

What has been the game changer is mass timber—layers of wood laminated together to make massive panels. This includes, among other types, cross laminated timber (CLT), laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and laminated strand lumber (LSL); this engineered timber offers a strong, solid material that creates the stability to build higher.

“Mass timber buildings are changing the scale of what is possible to be built in wood around the world,” cites the 2012 report, The Case for Tall Wood Buildings, written by Michael Green, principal and founder of MGA and one of the leaders in the tall wood building movement. Lighter than steel and concrete, these often prefabricated modules are easier to transport and allow for quicker build times. Durable, resilient and beautiful, wood’s strongest benefit is its environmental advantages.

“When harvested responsibly,” says Green. “Wood is the only carbon neutral building material that can reduce green house gas missions and actually sequester carbon in buildings.

wood tower MGA architecture

Wood Innovation and Design Centre by MGA. The design incorporates a simple, ‘dry’ structure of systems-integrated CLT floor panels, Glulam columns and beams, and mass timber walls.

Going Vertical Differently

Projects around the world demonstrate the various approaches to mass timber construction. Completed in 2014, MGA’s 29.5-meter Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, British Colombia used CLT floor panels, Glulam (glued laminated timber) columns and beams and mass timber walls. The project is an example of the firm’s Creative Commons FFTT (Finding the Forest Through the Trees) system, which was introduced in the 2012 report as “a predominantly wood system with a solid wood central elevator and stair core and wood floor slabs. Steel beams are used to provide ductility in the system to address wind and earthquake forces. Concrete has been used for the below grade areas of the structure.”

In what will be the first timber building realized in the U.S. in more than 100 years—and the tallest in North America when it’s completed this autumn—MGA’s 22,000-square-feet Minneapolis T3 office building uses over 1,100 nail laminated timber (NLT) panels (most made from lumber from trees killed by the mountain pine beetle) and leaves the mass timber columns and floors slabs exposed, demonstrating the aesthetic and health benefits of a wood interior.

In Vienna, the mixed-use HoHo high-rise is an example of a timber-hybrid construction, which pairs mass timber with other materials. Here, with the service core constructed of solid reinforced concrete, which also acts as a support to the timber structure, 75 percent of the building from the ground floor up is made from timber. Ease of construction is achieved through “the stacking of four, prefabricated serial components,” as described on the project’s website. “Support, joist, ceilings panels and façade elements.”

Rüdiger Lainer + Partner Architects

24-story HoHo project Vienna RLP Architects. Image © Rüdiger Lainer

Waugh Thistleton is behind what was the tallest modern timber building in the world at the time of its completion in 2009. Rising nine stories and constructed from prefabricated CLT panels, the Murray Grove residential building was one of the first with load bearing walls, floor slabs, stairs and lift cores constructed from timber. “The journey we started with Murray Grove in 2008 is now an international campaign,” Thistleton said in an interview for ArchiExpo.

The firm is now working on a 121-unit CLT constructed residential building, which is scheduled for completion in early 2017. Dalston Lane, located in London’s Hackney borough, which encourages timber construction, is being touted as the largest CTL project, by volume, in the world.

Developments to Manage

Although building code changes are showing signs of more acceptance of tall wood construction (Australia was the latest), perceptions still have a ways to go before building departments see the full advantages of wood over concrete and steel. Architects embracing tall timber are attempting to quell fears about fire by bestowing mass timbers advantages which char on the outside, creating an insulation and thus a slow burn.

Further developments include a look to the creation of mass timber with bamboo, which has a high growth rate and is plentiful throughout the world. In future our cities could go from concrete jungles to urban forests.

“It’s a very exciting time, the impetus is growing,” Waugh Thistleton continued in an interview for ArchiExpo. “And going tall for high density environmentally sustainable solutions is the only way we can viably extend our cities.”

wood skyscrapers Waugh Thistleton architects

Development House Timber re-development in Shoreditch. Courtesy of Waugh Thistleton architects.

Skyscrapers: High on Wood, featured image: Ten-story residential condominium building on 18th Street West NYC by SHoP Architects. The project is in its design development phase.

Hot Topic
Too much wood is still being exported and sold back to us.
3Biro Architecture © Miran Kambič

Timber architecture is undoubtedly a global hot topic: it’s been showcased at the Milan Expo, featured in architecture publications, discussed in conferences in Ljubljana, and is being built more and more. As Slovenia-based architect firms OFIS, SONO and Bevk Perović are already making waves abroad, we explore the...

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  • Courtesy of Charles Salter Associates

    LEED- and BIM-savvy consultant firm for services in acoustics, audiovisual, telecommunications and security, the San Francisco-based Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc. offers “sound” advice. Its in-house presentation studio simulates acoustical environments, allowing clients a better understanding.

    One of the largest acoustics consultant firms in the U.S., Salter also launched Audio Forensic Center in order to provide “objective scientific analyses regarding audio and video technology and recorded evidence.” In 1998, the firm authored Acoustics: Architecture, Engineering, the Environment, a book for architects, engineers, facility owners and managers, specifiers, contractors, and other professionals with a need for information on acoustics.

    ArchiExpo spoke with Ethan Salter, a professional engineer with LEED AP credentials and the principal consultant at Salter.


    Ethan Salter

    Ethan Salter

    Courtesy of Charles Salter Associates


    ArchiExpo: You completed a LEED-Gold certified office expansion in the historic Hallidie Building. What acoustic-related products were used in this project to reach a LEED-Gold level?

    Salter: The project was completed in 2013, under LEED-CI v2009. We achieved Pilot Credit 24 for acoustical design, which is now incorporated into LEED v4’s indoor environmental quality credits. We used environmentally benign surface products such as Hunter Douglas Techstyle, Conwed Eurospan, Decoustics Solo wood panels, 9wood ceilings and open office systems furniture by Teknion that is transparent above 42” tall—so we got the benefits of privacy with tall barriers but still achieved LEED requirements for daylight and views.

    ArchiExpo: Could you describe the acoustic-related products used in one of your office projects?

    Salter: The Dropbox project was a few years ago. More recently, we have worked on several office projects in the Silicon Valley area that use sound-absorptive felt wall panels, as well as highly absorptive lay-in ceiling tiles in conference rooms. For open plan areas, ceilings were treated using sound-absorptive “clouds” over the workstations.

    Tomoko designed by MottoWasabi, Anna Salonen & Yuki Abe

    Tomoko designed by MottoWasabi, Anna Salonen & Yuki Abe

    ArchiExpo: What are the most common acoustic challenges for office spaces?

    Salter: The challenge these days is to accommodate the “collaborative” work environment, which is quite common, while still allowing for some privacy and reduction of distractions. This means providing areas where people can have phone conversations without unduly disturbing their neighbors. Also, green buildings can tend to have more hard surfaces (e.g., glass, concrete, etc.), so providing absorptive materials in those environments is very important. But more “green” materials are containing acoustical qualities. Vendors are offering materials that previously used fiberglass, and are now using either formaldehyde-free fiberglass or else cotton within them.

    ArchiExpo: What are some innovative acoustic design products?

    Salter: Acoustical computer modeling is becoming more available to help predict how a space could sound under various conditions. This modeling uses the architect’s BIM model to overlay various materials.

    Don’t miss a recent article on Mario Seneviratne discussing LEED V4 at Big5 in Dubai.

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    Photo by leonardo finotti photography

    At the end of 2015, Instituto Inhotim opened its 19th permanent gallery, which is dedicated to the work of photographer Claudia Andujar, born in Switzerland and based in Brazil since the 1950s.

    Sponsored by Spanish bank Santander, the 1,600-square-meter pavilion is divided into four independent blocks, and will be the second largest pavilion inside this combination of giant park and open air museum. It contains a display of over 400 photographs taken by Andujar between 1970 and 2010 in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest and features the Yanomami indigenous people. Andujar lived in their region on more than one occasion and has returned several times since.

    Splitting into Four

    Arquitetos Associados

    Courtesy of Arquitetos Associados

    The building was designed by Arquitetos Associados, a company of architects from Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais where Instituto Inhotim is located. According to project leader Alexandre Brasil, there were no obvious preconceived references when they began discussions over the first draft in 2012. The most significant influence from the beginning was Rodrigo Moura’s curation of the exposition. For example, it was his idea to make four distinct blocks inside the gallery.

    Alexandre Brasil concurred with the curator’s idea to split the pavilion into four, explaining to ArchiExpo: “It would be somewhat tiring for visitors to take in all the photographs at once with no break. So between each block we built a corridor through which you can see the forest and have access to two gardens.” The new gallery is completely on one level. The only deviations are the ramps for people with disabilities.

    Arquitetos Associados

    Photo by leonardo finotti photography. Courtesy of Arquitetos Associados

    A Harmonious Construction

    “Our three main goals were to pursue a visual identity strongly related to that of the institute, to understand Claudia Andujar’s work and to carefully consider the specific location in the park where the gallery was to be built. Naturally, the main aim of our design was to guarantee harmony between building and environment, considering the best way to integrate it into the forest,” says Brasil.

    The building is situated on top of a densely wooded hill and can be reached via trails through the undergrowth. The topography of the location reveals the beautiful views, which is why the architects chose to build the gallery at the highest part of the hill, as well as keeping the construction site compact and deliberately avoiding any perceived intentions of imitating the surrounding environment.

    Arquitetos Associados

    Photo by leonardo finotti photography. Courtesy of Arquitetos Associados

    Local Materials

    The building’s limited palette of colors and choice of materials emphasize the textures of the handmade double-kiln-fired clay bricks, which are made by local expert Pedro Alves dos Santos. At the opening ceremony, the Yanomani natives present referred to the new gallery as Maxita Yano (clay house). The wood material used in the building came from a stock that Instituto Inhotim already had.

    Curiously, the architects did not consider the patterns of Brazilian native basketry, the first thing that may come to mind to any Brazilian observer of the gallery. “We were actually thinking of an interplay of light and shadow that would also have vertical lines and therefore allude to the woodlands around the building,” explains Brasil.


    Joann Plockova

    Joann Plockova is a Prague-based freelance journalist, focused on design and travel.

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    Manon Pierre

    Manon Pierre is a licensed journalist with a sturdy background in art and architecture reporting.

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    Ana Luiza Daltro

    A native of São Paulo, Ana Luiza Daltro is a former economics and business reporter from VEJA magazine who currently writes for three e-magazines within VirtualExpo group.

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    Ludovic Nachury

    Journalist and innovation enthusiast for more than 10 years, Ludovic Nachury is ArchiExpo e-magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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    Erin Tallman

    American artist Erin Tallman is a journalist for various online publications and is the Editor in Chief of ArchiExpo e-magazine. She has published three books, including her first novel.

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    Erin Gigl

    Erin Gigl is a freelance design and travel writer, editor and artist.

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    Daniel Allen

    Daniel Allen is a writer and a photographer. His work has been featured in numerous publications, including CNN, BBC, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, National Geographic Traveller, Discovery Channel.

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    Alexandre Vella

    Alexandre Vella is a freelance journalist writing mostly about social and environmental topics.

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