The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Friday, April 8, 2011

Great Designs in Wood (8) - The Modern Wood Building

You may think that the day of the high-rise wooden buildings is a distant memory, something that went up in smoke with the Great Chicago fire of 1871. And you'd be in the company of most of the world's commercial architects.

But thanks to some visionary architects in Finland and England, the era of the modern wooden high-rise may be just beginning. The Finns started this modern era with the design and construction of the FMO Tapiola Building, built in 2005 by the architectural firm Helin & Co. for a large insurance company. The beautiful 5-story, 13, 300 square meter building is a modular building that makes great use of prefabricated wooden panels and a lot of LVL (laminated veneer lumber).  This is a great example of the smartest, most sensitive use of engineered wood products in combination that I've yet seen. Here's a great slide show of the building with all kinds of interesting technical facts.

I love the quote from the primary architect, Pekka Helin:
“A modern wooden office building shows how wood can meet today’s architectural demands for more ‘human’ and environmentally-friendly structures. I see a bright international future for such buildings as the wood renaissance continues. ”
"As the wood renaissance continues." Music to your ears, isn't it?

Well, a renaissance needs more than one example to be a renaissance. That's why Waugh Thistleton's Timber Tower in London is such a great story. This building, documented a recent TreeHugger blog posting with the catching headline "Nine Storey Apartment Built in Nine Weeks by Four Workers", pushes the envelope of believability both in the size of the building and the construction accomplishment. But they have a great time-lapse video to prove it was done.

And yes, the picture above is the completed building. The pixilated panels on the exterior walls were taken from an artistic concept of recording shadow patterns on the site prior to the building being constructed. And the interior of the building was finished out just like a traditional apartment building, with gypsum wallboard panels providing the fire-rating in a cost-effective and efficient manner. So the apartment owners don't have to appreciate the look, glow, and smell of wood like we do, they can be as urban-retro-chic-modernistic as they want, and still own a great environmental dwelling.

It may the world's ugliest new wooden building, but the architect achieved a break-through accomplishment...he proved that wood is a versatile building material than can be used for many applications and customers, not just those of us in flannel shirts and boots.

The renaissance continues!


Anonymous said...

Wood is beautiful, much more beautiful than concrete or steel.

John, self proclaimed wood expert :)

modular building guy said...

@John I'm with you there. Concrete or wood - no comparison.