ARCHITECTURE TREND ON THE (HIGH) RISE: TIMBER TOWERS

Say this three times fast:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck was collecting wood for a skyscraper?

Then go ahead and say this:

What?!

When thinking of a typical skyscraper, most think of steel beams, concrete, and reflective metals soaring closer to the sun and holding the dreams of many as they hustle through their 9-5. One architect, however, is challenging the status-quo (as artists do), and urging the business world to think outside of their well-known, ironclad box.

Michael Green Architecture is a firm based in Canada, with offices located in Vancouver, BC, Victoria, BC, and Portland, Oregon –– and they have big (or more precisely, tall) ideas. The firm’s about page gives insight into what makes them tick:

“Our goal is to deliver inviting buildings that are a pleasure to work, live, learn, or play in. We contribute to community through excellence in design and innovation.”

On the firm’s website, the about page also makes clear their intention to do more than the average architecture firm. The company has partnered with 1% For The Planet to counter the tremendous amount of energy and material resources they use through donating 1% of revenue to organizations helping to conserve and protect the planet.

And while their creativity and commitment to doing work in a way that benefits us all is certainly admirable, what’s earned them the most attention from the world of architecture and beyond is their unique take on buildings. While traditionally, big buildings are built from steel, aluminum, and glass, the desire to do something different has stemmed from the potential benefits of using timber as a main building block. Pros include the potential for quicker construction timetables, a  lower carbon footprint, and the chance to create more energizing environments that don’t seem so far-removed from nature.

So far, Green and his lean, mean building team have brought wooden buildings to be in places such as Minneapolis, where T3, one of the tallest timber buildings in the United States thus far, stands tall. Soon though, it will be outdone by Green’s upcoming project, in the works with development group Lotus Equity Group. The building will be a part of a redevelopment project called Riverfront Square in Newark, New Jersey. Plans indicate the structure will consist of 500,000 square-feet, ten stories, and be one of the largest timber projects in America once all is said and done.

office.jpg

The project will showcase’s timber’s potential to be a promising building block for buildings of varying height. While in the past, six stories has been the typical sticking point and limit for wooden structures, Green is hitching his (presumably wooden) wagon to the fact that building codes are changing –– and perspectives , along with them. Speaking to timber’s ability to create more warm, inviting spaces than the traditional materials, Green spoke to The Wall Street Journal:

“The tech sector is recognizing that the future of office buildings has to be significantly different from what it was in the past. The workplace where you spend a third of your lifetime better be a place where you actually want to be. And it’s not going to be a generic office tower.”

Green, of course, understands the want to ensure safety of taller timber builds, and stresses the good parts of slow-moving changes in the industry is that when the code finally does change, safety has already been assured through dotted is and crossed ts. Answering a question surrounding his excitement of wood’s long awaited time in the architectural spotlight, Green spoke to Architectural Digest,

“The designs of most of my buildings are quite modest and appropriately modest for their neighborhood. They’re not trying to be the most gregarious building on the block with a crazy curved shapes and stuff. They don’t need to be. The elegance of a wood building is the wood itself. For me, the ability to create a beautiful, simple space that’s really warm and friendly and comfortable for the people using the building is where my enthusiasm is at. It’s hard to do simple. It’s hard to all allow materials to be themselves. But that was the essence of modernism. That’s what icons like Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, and Corbusier believed, each in their own material. Their ambition was to let the material be itself and not let the architecture overpower the material. For me, that’s what I love about wood. Wood just needs to be wood.”

 

 

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