Plan for wooden 'toothpick' skyscraper in London

LONDON • A giant timber skyscraper could soon be a notable landmark in London, alongside the Gherkin and the Shard.

The building is designed as an 80-storey, 300m-high wooden tower integrated into the Barbican complex which would create 1,000 new residences.

Architectural plans for London's first timber skyscraper were presented to London mayor Boris Johnson last week for his approval.

The Architects' Journal described the design concept as "toothpick-like".

The timber skyscraper would be the second-tallest building in the capital after the 95-storey Shard, which stands at 310m.

Currently, the world's tallest timber building is a 14-storey apartment block in Bergen, Norway. It will be surpassed by London's timber skyscraper, if its developers are given the green light.

London-based PLP Architecture has partnered with researchers from Cambridge University's department of architecture and engineers Smith and Wallwork to draw up proposals for the development of tall timber buildings in central London.

Plans for an 80-storey, 300m-high wooden tower have been submitted to the London mayor for approval. If built, the timber skyscraper would be the second-tallest building in the capital after the 95-storey Shard, which stands at 310m.
Plans for an 80-storey, 300m-high wooden tower have been submitted to the London mayor for approval. If built, the timber skyscraper would be the second-tallest building in the capital after the 95-storey Shard, which stands at 310m. PHOTO: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY

A RENEWABLE RESOURCE

The use of timber as a structural material in tall buildings is an area of emerging interest for its variety of potential benefits, the most obvious being that it is a renewable resource.

RESEARCHERS FROM CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY'S DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE

The Cambridge researchers were of the view that: "The use of timber as a structural material in tall buildings is an area of emerging interest for its variety of potential benefits, the most obvious being that it is a renewable resource, unlike prevailing construction methods which use concrete and steel."

They underlined other potential benefits such as cheaper construction cost, less time for construction and lighter buildings.

The researchers also said innovations in timber construction could have a positive impact on the aesthetics of the urban environment in the 21st century in the same way that innovations in steel, glass and concrete revolutionised buildings in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The director of Cambridge's Centre for Natural Material Innovation, Dr Michael Ramage, said the Barbican was designed in the middle of the last century to bring residential living into the city of London, and it had been successful.

"We've put our proposals on the Barbican as a way to imagine what the future of construction could look like in the 21st century," he said.

For London to continue to thrive, Dr Ramage said, there was a need to "increasingly densify".

"One way is taller buildings. We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers," said Dr Ramage.

"We've designed the architecture and engineering and demonstrated it will stand, but this is at a scale no one has attempted to build before

"We are developing a new understanding of primary challenges in structure and construction. There is a lot of work ahead, but we are confident of meeting all the challenges before us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline 'Plan for wooden 'toothpick' skyscraper in London'. Print Edition | Subscribe