Innovations in wood: understanding the latest advances in wood research and design

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In this CEU on demand, ARCHITECT editor-in-chief Paul Makovsky will explore the work of three companies: MALL, LEVER Architecture and Ultramoderne, delving into their use of wood in innovative ways. Panelists include Jennifer Bonner, professor of architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and founder of MALL; Thomas Robinson, founder and director of LEVER Architecture; and Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest, co-founders of Ultramoderne.

Learners will have the opportunity to explore how specifying wood in building design has a host of benefits, including improving project design, enhancing sustainable initiatives, and incorporating mixed materials for innovative buildings. In this session, ARCHITECT explores the work and research of several companies using wood for innovative designs, and he will discuss the research methods used to support the use of wood in various commercial and residential projects. The session will also identify the environmental benefits of cross-laminated timber and reclaimed timber, specific to the case studies reviewed here, and finally, it will analyze the opportunities for integrating timber with other materials to provide owners and occupants of the building a comfortable environment. and an aesthetic space.

Tim Hurley
Jennifer Bonner’s Haus Gables in Atlanta, GA, all exterior and interior walls, floors and roof are made of strong CLT panels that were custom cut, hoisted in place and assembled in 24 days.

For Jennifer Bonner’s Haus Gables in Atlanta, Georgia, all exterior and interior walls, floors, and roofs are made of solid CLT panels. They were cut to size, hoisted into place and assembled in 24 days, with the CLT “allowing for a strong home that avoids wood-frame construction,” says Bonner. Faux finishes covered the exterior and parts of the interior, reinventing the tradition of faux finishes in the South and exploiting a more contemporary technique of color blocking currently found in pop culture, Bonner pointed out. . “When building an all-CLT home, I wanted to offset the image of a wood interior with faux finishes,” she says. “These fake materials are colorful, bold and deceptive.”

The Adidas headquarters design by LEVER Architecture is a unique hybrid structural system of precast concrete columns and beams with glulam beams and CLT panels.
Jeremy Bitterman
LEVER Architectures Adidas’ headquarters design is a unique hybrid structural system of precast concrete columns and beams with glulam beams and CLT panels.

Thomas Robinson of LEVER Architecture discusses two case studies: Adidas’ award-winning North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon, and 843 N. Spring Street, a mixed-use project in downtown Los Chinatown. Angeles. Adidas’ headquarters design is a unique hybrid structural system of precast concrete columns and beams with glulam beams and CLT panels.

“The warmth of solid wood, its technical innovation and its connection to the regional forest culture make it an ideal material for a cutting-edge brand with roots in the Northwest,” says Robinson.

As one of the first major CLT office buildings in Los Angeles, the 843 N. Spring Street project, by LEVER Architecture, is comprised of office and retail space, a garden courtyard, a amenity terrace and basement parking, and it sets a goal to push the boundaries of sustainable mass timber construction on a large scale.
Paul Vu
As one of the first major CLT office buildings in Los Angeles, the 843 N. Spring Street project, by LEVER Architecture, is comprised of office and retail space, a garden courtyard, a amenity terrace and basement parking, and it sets a goal to push the boundaries of sustainable mass timber construction on a large scale.

The 843 N. Spring Street project includes office and retail space, a garden courtyard, a landscaped patio and basement parking. As one of the first major CLT office buildings in Los Angeles, this project set out to push the boundaries of sustainable mass timber construction on a large scale. The hybrid structural system combines three- and five-ply CLT panels and a concrete cover slab, with exposed steel columns and beams that account for the building’s gravity and seismic loads. Exposed wooden panels cantilevered over the balconies create a warm, natural aesthetic.

“Preliminary calculations show an estimated 1,357 metric tons of carbon reduction compared to traditional construction methods, which is equivalent to keeping 287 cars off the road for a year,” says Robinson.

Ultramodern's Chicago Horizon project for the Chicago Architectural Biennial Lakefront Kiosk Competition is now located on the shore of Chicago Lake and is made using CLT, and provides a large shade canopy for beachgoers.
Naho Kubota
Ultramodern’s Chicago Horizon project for the Chicago Architectural Biennial Lakefront Kiosk Competition is now located on the shore of Chicago Lake and is made using CLT, and provides a large shade canopy for beachgoers.

Yasmin Voobis and Aaron Forrest of Ultramoderne present their award-winning Chicago Horizon project for the Chicago Architectural Biennial Lakefront Kiosk Competition. Using CLT in the larger dimensions to be transported by truck, the gazebo, now located on the shore of Chicago’s lake, provides a large shade canopy for beachgoers. The project is constructed almost entirely from engineered wood products, including CLT for the roof canopy and glulam columns, making its total carbon impact negative.

According to Ultramodern, “The lateral span of the roof recalibrates the experience of two extremes of the Chicago landscape: at ground level, the Lake Michigan skyline dominates, forming a line of symmetry between the ground and the canopy. From the observation deck, the roof becomes a new artificial horizon, closing off the foreground and emphasizing the floating vertical skyline of Chicago above an abstract hovering airplane.

Show Notes

This UFC is underwritten by Think Wood.

Click here to learn more about ARCHITECT’s on-demand learning CEUs.

Christopher Dribbling

Jennifer Bonner is an associate professor of architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design and director of MALL, a creative practice that stands for Mass Architectural Loopty Loops or Maximum Arches with Limited Liability – an acronym with built-in flexibility. She is the recipient of the 2021 United States Artist Fellowship Award, Architectural League Award for Young Architects + Designers, Emerging Voices Award (AIA/Young Architects Forum), Progressive Architecture Award (P/A), and Next Progressives Award (ARCHITECTMagazine ). Jennifer is co-editor of White: Speculations on the CLT; author of A Guide to the Dirty South: Atlanta; faculty editor Platform: Still life; and guest editor for ART PAPERS special issue on architecture and design in Los Angeles. She has exhibited work at the Royal Institute of British Architects, National Building Museum, WUHO Gallery, HistoryMIAMI Museum, Yve YANG Gallery, Pinkcomma Gallery, Armstrong Gallery at Kent State University, Yale Architecture Gallery, the Istanbul Modern Museum, the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, and the Chicago Architecture Biennale. She received a B.Arch from Auburn University and an M.Arch from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where she received the James Templeton Kelley Prize.

courtesy LEVER Architecture

thomas robinson, Thomas Robinson is the founder of LEVER Architecture, a design firm with offices in Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles. His company is widely recognized for materials innovation and for its pioneering work with CLT. His recent projects include 843 N Spring Street, slated to be one of the largest log buildings in Los Angeles, as well as one-of-a-kind log buildings for clients including The Nature Conservancy and Adidas. Robinson’s work also includes over $1 million in research to develop and test wood construction assemblies. He has lectured on solid wood in the United States, Europe and South America, and was a USDA Wood Innovation Grant Visiting Professor at the University of Arkansas. LEVER was recently recognized by fast business as one of the world’s most innovative companies and in 2017 was named Architecture file‘s Design Vanguard and the Emerging Voices of the Architectural League of New York.

Ultramodern courtesy

Yasmine Vobis is a registered architect and lead co-founder of Ultramodern. She studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University, where she received a master’s degree in archeology and was awarded the Butler Traveling Fellowship and the Suzanne Kolarik Underwood Prize. Before co-founding Ultramoderne, she practiced in the offices of Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects, Guy Nordenson and Associates and Steven Holl Architects. Additionally, she has taught at Princeton University, Rhode Island School of Design, Cooper Union, and Brown University, and is currently an assistant professor of architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She received the Founders/Arnold W. Brunner/Katherine Edwards Gordon Rome Prize in Architecture in 2016.

Ultramodern courtesy


Aaron Forest is a registered architect and lead co-founder of Ultramodern. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in archeology from Princeton University. In addition to co-directing Ultramoderne, he is an associate professor of architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. He has extensive professional experience, having practiced in New York with Bernheimer Architecture and Guy Nordenson and Associates, and in Madrid with Ábalos & Herreros Arquitectos. His experience strongly informs his interests in the relationship between structure, tectonics and architectural space.

This CEU was produced by Paul Makovsky, Jennifer Boal, Shannon Stahl and Shawn Gilliam.

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