Why shouldn’t we have entire cities made of wood – including skyscrapers? As ultra-tall timber towers are completed around the world – with many more in the planning stages – the creation of entire wood-based developments is a natural next step. Stockholm, Sweden could be the first to realize this dream with a new proposal from Anders Berensson Architects, a conceptual housing development on the waterfront containing a whopping 31 individual cross-laminated timber towers.
This proposal isn’t just a bunch of fantastical concept drawings destined to grab some internet attention and then disappear. The architects were commissioned by the Stockholm Center Party to design a masterplan for a new sustainable district in Stockholm as part of a larger vision for a greener, more prosperous future. The development would bring 5,000 new residences to the central docklands area of Masthamnen, for which the project is named.
Anders Berensson Architects has been commissioned by the Stockholm Center Party to designed Stockholm’s highest, densest and most environmentally friendly new neighborhood in the cities central dock area Masthamnen by building one wooden city on top of another. In the lower city we want to build blocks with homes, offices and shops surrounded by streets, squares and a living dockside. On top of this city we want to build a city of narrow wooden skyscrapers in a public parkland that connects the new area with the surrounding hills and city parts.
The new district can be divided into three main parts. The lower block city that is built on today’s dock level. The narrow wooden skyscraper city that is built on top of the lower city and the landscape of roofs and bridges that is connected with the surrounding heights.
The lower block city consists of 19 new city blocks with 6-10 floors and contain 2500 apartments, 60000 m2 of office space and about 90 shops & restaurants. The neighborhood connects to the few existing streets that surrounds the area. To the west, the area is connected to Folkungagatan and Stadsgårdskajen by continuing these streets into the new area. To the south, the area is connected to the new residential district Persikan and Norra Hammarbyhammnen via new buildings. To the east the area connects to Saltsjökvarn via an openable walking and cycling bridge. The existing ferry terminal is planned to be kept with some adjustments to its new central location. Office spaces are planned to the noisiest parts of the terminal and the neighborhoods are designed so that all apartments either look over the boats or get a good second view when the cruising ships are moored.
The firm previously created a proposal for a wooden skyscraper covered in numbers, called Trätoppen, for the Stockhom Center Party. These architects are well-versed in wood, and their preference to work with it comes down to its beauty, sustainability and the fact that it releases the least carbon dioxide compared to other top construction materials in common usage today.
The widespread use of wood in urban developments could transform cities as we know them, not just in terms of their environmental friendliness but in appearance as well. Imagine how much warmer and more welcoming urban buildings would feel if they were made of wood instead of so much steel and glass. With all trends pointing to skyrocketing demand for wood in the near future, we might not have to imagine for long.
So many tall timber building projects have been announced over the last few years, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Wood construction is definitely on an upward trend around the world as architects, developers and government officials realize just how sustainable, beautiful, safe, durable and affordable it can be.
Right now, with dozens of timber towers planned, proposed or under construction, a number of projects are competing for the title of the tallest wooden building in the world. Which ones actually make that record – however temporarily – will depend on when they’re finished relative to each other.
When PLP Architecture announced plans for its Oakwood Tower in London – set to be the city’s second tallest building in total, after the Shard, at 1,000 feet – it seemed like it would be hard to beat. Most of the other multi-story buildings primarily made of wood that are currently in development are closer to 200 feet, which is still pretty impressive. But Tokyo’s 350 Project, if realized, will blow even Oakwood out of the water.
Designed by architecture firm Nikken Sekkei and Japanese developer Sumitomo Forest, the 1,148-foot-tall 350 Project skyscraper will consist of an amazing 6.5 million cubic feet of wood in the braced tubing structural system alone, its framing specifically designed to withstand earthquakes. The visible timber frame highlights the physicality of the wood, creating lots of open outdoor spaces on every level, some planted with trees and other vegetation.
It’s not set to be completed until 2041, which is awfully far away, and there’s no telling what could happen before then. But the project would easily become Japan’s tallest building as well as the tallest timber tower in the world. Nikken Sekkei hopes that even the attention-grabbing renderings will help pique public interest in timber architecture and give the forestry industry in rural areas a big boost.
It looks as if Vancouver, B.C. could become home to the world’s tallest timber tower by summer 2017, assuming it ’s completed before several other planned projects in Europe. Designed by Acton Ostry Architects, the Brock Commons Student Residence at the University of British Columbia is set to be 53 meters (173.8 feet) tall, with housing for 404 students. This particular plan calls for a hybrid of mass wood and concrete; the two freestanding concrete cores are already built and the wood structure is currently going up around it.
17 stories of timber will be topped with a prefabricated steel beam and metal deck roof, with all vertical loads carried by the timber and lateral stability provided by the cores. Steel connectors transfer loads between the glulam columns and a grid of cross-laminated timber panels to meet the Canadian building code standards for earthquake-resistant design. Most of the materials in use are prefabricated, enabling the structure to go up at a rate of about one floor per week.
Designed to meet LEED Gold certification, the sustainable structure aims to stand as a case study for the viability of tall wood structures, ultimately leading to changes in British Columbia’s building codes so even taller wooden skyscrapers can be built. The amount of wood used in the structure will trap an incredible 2,563 tons of carbon, the equivalent of taking 490 cars off the road for a year. That represents a whole lot of potential for environmentally friendly, affordable and easy-to-build wooden superstructures in our future.
The wooden skyscraper trend is really taking off in 2016, with dozens of projects in various stages of planning, and many more concepts and proposals released by designers on a near-weekly basis. But none have been quite as creative and decorative as this one from Anders Berenson Architects, envisioned for Stockholm, Sweden. The Trätoppen Tower will be built almost entirely from cross-laminated timber (CLT) and features a numerical facade identifying each of its 40 stories in bold fashion for an effect that’s as ornate as any decorative screen.
Set to be the tallest building in the city center, the tower is named after the Swedish word for ‘treetop,’ and will perch atop an existing parking garage by architect Hans Asplund. Two levels of the extension will be open to the public as terraces, and the rest will serve as private residences. The seven-story car park will be renovated to contain shopping areas, restaurants and cafes.
While it’s beautiful, the wooden screen doesn’t just serve a decorative purpose. It’s designed to reduce solar gain, helping to keep the interior cool and comfortable.
“If we want to reduce the amount of cars in the city center of Stockholm and at the same time make space for more housing without building on green areas, then replacing car parks with housing, shops and restaurants feels obvious,” say the architects.
Nicknamed the Dr. Seuss Tower by nearby residents who can see it poking up from the treetops for miles, Alaska’s ’Goose Creek Tower’ is a kooky 8-story stack of cabins reaching up high enough to give its owner views of Mount McKinley. It’s been in various stages of completion for years, leading some to wonder whether it had been abandoned, and aerial footage taken last year made it an internet curiosity. Now, a documentary crew has spoken to the builder, a lawyer and self-proclaimed ‘frustrated architect,’ to get details.
In a two-minute feature called ‘We’re Not in Whoville Anymore,’ filmmakers Great Big Story interview Phillip Weidner about his highly unusual home design, which was built to the absolute maximum height without entering federal airspace. Weidner started with a 40 by 40-foot scribed log cabin, and realized that with the addition of some pillars, he could put a house on top of a house.
After that, he couldn’t seem to stop, and just kept going and going until it topped out at 185 feet in height. All of the framing is complete, but the tower is still without windows and finished surfaces, so it remains uninhabited. Weidner reports that a hidden escape tunnel at the basement level leads to a safe room.
“I wanted to be able to see, and that’s the reason I went up. You could see for at least three hundred miles. And of course when the northern lights are out, you can really see ‘em. I hope that Goose Creek Tower will inspire other people to do worthwhile things, not just in building but whatever they do with their life. And every time I go up there, it’s a different experience. It kind of give you a sense of the enormity of the universe.”
America’s top metropolis is set to get on board with wooden megastructures, hinting toward a tipping point that’ll boost demand for tall wooden buildings throughout the country. One of the winners of the USDA’s recent tall timber building competition, this ten-story condominium by SHoP Architects is a soaring 120 feet high and will overlook the High Line, the city park built on an old elevated freight rail line.
Planned for 475 West 18th Street, the project will have retail space on the ground floor in addition to dozens of new gorgeous-looking, modern wood-lined apartments. The environmentally friendly project aims to reduce overall energy consumption by at least 50 percent relative to current energy codes, and will seek LEED Platinum certification.
SHoP architect Chris Sharples notes that “every element of the building, right down to the elevator core, can be constructed in wood.” Aside from the sustainability of its construction, the building is notable for the warmth that its wood facade brings to an urban landscape that can otherwise be quite hard and cold, packed with steel and concrete.
Boosting the profile of wooden buildings could be a big boon to the entire industry, says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who announced the winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition at a press conference in September 2015. A proposal called Framework in Portland, Oregon is the second winner.
“The U.S. wood products industry is vitally important as it employs more than 547,000 people in manufacturing and forestry, with another 2.4 million jobs supported by U.S. private forest owners. By embracing the benefits of wood as a sustainable building material, these demonstration projects have the ability to help change the face of our communities, mitigate climate change and support jobs in rural America. I look forward to seeing how these two buildings help lead the way in furthering the industry.”