Could wood be the future of urban architecture?

A new exhibition in London will make a strong case for timber's place amid the skyline of tomorrow
Baobab concept rendering by Michael Green Architects
Baobab concept rendering by Michael Green Architects

Could thickets of wood take root in our cities soon? That's certainly the suggestion of a forthcoming exhibition called Timber Rising - Vertical Visions for the Cities of Tomorrow. The exhibition, which opens at the Roca London Gallery on 9 February, is the first comprehensive look at the revolution in timber high-rise building, and features both new structures and architectural renderings from Britain, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden, France and elsewhere.

Many of the exhibits, such as Waugh Thistleton’s Dalston Lane block in London, use cross-laminated timber, a relatively new type of glued-wood material, which is both strong, and sustainable.


 Treet by Artec	AS, in Bergen, Norway. Photograph by David Valldeby
Treet by Artec AS, in Bergen, Norway. Photograph by David Valldeby

There are also more challenging proposals, such as the 80-storey Oakwood Timber Tower concept for the Barbican in London by local practice, PLP, which collaborated with Cambridge University's Department of Architecture and engineers Smith and Wallwork, to formulate a method of utilising the lightness of engineered timber, which they liken to the carbon fibre of aircraft, enabling the firm to build on top of existing urban structures.


Lagos’ Wooden Tower concept	for	Nigeria by	Hermann	Kamte & Associates
Lagos’ Wooden Tower concept for Nigeria by Hermann Kamte & Associates

However, as architect and wooden building advocate Michael Green argues, Timber Rising isn't really about showcasing new technological feats, but more about opening the general public up to the very real possibilities of high-rise wooden architecture, which has proven ecological advantages for the world as a whole, and psychological benefits for these buildings' inhabitants.


Dalston Lane

“I always say that the hardest job is not the engineering or science behind how these mass timber buildings are constructed, but it’s changing the public’s perception of what is possible and why," says Green. "This exhibition will help to change that, to enlighten, and help people to understand the issues.”

For more on the show go here; and for more on timber in both old and new architecture order a copy of William Hall's wonderful book Wood, part of an architecture series that also includes Brick and Concrete.

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