No More ‘Soulless’ Glass Facades in Timber Architecture Boom

30 stody Wooden Building

Canadian cities, and in fact most major cities around the world, have been criticized of late for lacking soul. The modern, glass-clad aesthetic of many a modern structure, skyscraper or otherwise, has come under fire recently by more than one major architect, with Frank Gehry and Lawrence Nield leading the charge against ‘zombie buildings’ which lack cohesion, soul or substance.

Now, timber architecture is stepping in to fill that void.

While timber has always played a role in industry developments new timber engineering has led to designs for timber skyscrapers in all corners of the globe.

Plans for Michael Green’s Tall Wood Tower in Vancouver have earned an extended stay in the public consciousness due to the growing interest in timber design.

Announced at the beginning of the year, Green’s 30-storey skyscraper will use Laminated Strand Lumber beams instead of steel beams, with the wooden components glued together in layers and able to withstand intense pressure.

wood murray horizontal

The specifically engineered timber is not only fire safe, given the fact that it chars rather than combusting, but it is also highly environmentally responsible, with all of the timber to be locally sourced and renewable.

Herein lies a key catalyst for the timber trend’s underlying popularity. The process lends itself to creating highly green buildings when sustainable timber is used in the development process, as is the case in popular timber development concepts around the world.

It is for this reason that a new design competition ‘Timber in the City: Urban Habitats’ has taken off. The competition seeks to bring the timber trend to the Brooklyn Waterfront neighbourhood of Red Hook. The competition, run by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the Binational Softwood Lumber Council (BSLC) and Parsons The New School for Design, will endeavor to change the mindset – and the landscape – of built New York.

“Timber is ideal for green building – it has a lower overall environmental and carbon footprint than other materials and is renewable,” says BSLC executive director Cees de Jager. “Wood is well suited for a broad range of structural and aesthetic applications, is high performance, and, in many cases, is a more economical choice.”

Tenders for the competition must be entered by March of next year, with winning projects selected the following July.

It is apparent that timber may just become the new building material of choice in an industry driven by trends. Not only will this offer to shift the focus back onto developing green buildings that are creatively driven and achievable, it may also put a little bit of soul back into our city skylines.

By Emily D’Alterio
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