In this On Demand CEU, ARCHITECT editor-in-chief Paul Makovsky will explore the work of three firms: MALL, LEVER Architecture, and Ultramoderne—diving into their use of wood in innovative ways. Panelists include Jennifer Bonner, professor of architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the founder of MALL; Thomas Robinson, founder and principal of LEVER Architecture; and Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest, co-founding principals of Ultramoderne.
Learners will have an opportunity to explore how specifying wood in building design has a multitude of benefits, including elevating the design of the project, enhancing sustainable initiatives, and incorporating mixed materials for innovative buildings. In this session, ARCHITECT explores the work and research of several firms using wood for innovative designs, and it will discuss research methods used to support the use of wood in varying commercial and residential projects. The session will also identify the environmental benefits of cross-laminated timber and salvaged timber, specific to the case studies examined here, and finally, it will analyze opportunities where wood can be integrated with other materials to provide the building owners and occupants with a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing space.
For Jennifer Bonner’s Haus Gables in Atlanta, Ga., all exterior and interior walls, floors, and roof are made of solid CLT panels. They were custom-cut, hoisted into place, and assembled in 14 days, whereby the CLT “enables a solid house that eschews stick-frame construction,” explains Bonner. Faux finishes clad the exterior and parts of the interior, reimagining the tradition of faux-finishing in the South and tapping into a more contemporary technique of color blocking currently found in pop culture, Bonner has pointed out. "When building a house entirely out of CLT, I wanted to offset the image of a wooden interior with faux finishes,” she says. “These fake materials are colorful, bold, and deceiving."
Thomas Robinson of LEVER Architecture discusses two cases studies: The award-winning Adidas North American Headquarters in Portland, Ore., and 843 N. Spring Street, a mixed-use project in the Chinatown neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles. The design of the Adidas headquarters is a unique hybrid structural system of pre-cast concrete columns and girders with glulam beams and CLT panels.
“Mass timber’s warm character, technical innovation, and connection to the regional forestry culture make it an ideal material for a cutting-edge brand with roots in the Northwest,” Robinson says.
The 843 N. Spring Street project is houses office and retail space, a garden courtyard, an amenity deck, and below-grade parking. As one of the first major CLT office buildings in Los Angeles, this project set a goal of pushing the boundaries of sustainable mass timber construction at scale. The hybrid structural system combines three- and five-ply CLT panels and concrete topping slab, with exposed steel columns and beams that account for the building’s gravity and seismic loads. Exposed timber panels cantilever over the balconies, creating a warm, natural aesthetic.
“Preliminary calculations show an estimated reduction of 1,357 metric tons of carbon compared to traditional building methods, which is equivalent to keeping 287 cars off the road for a year,” Robinson explains.
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 largest dimensions to be transported by truck, the kiosk, now located on the Chicago lakeshore, provides a large shade canopy for beach-goers. The project is built almost entirely out of engineered timber products, including CLT for the roof canopy and glulam columns, making its total carbon impact negative.
According to Ultramoderne, “The lateral reach of the roof recalibrates the experience of two extremes of the Chicago landscape: at ground level, the Lake Michigan horizon dominates, forming a line of symmetry between ground and canopy. From the viewing platform, the roof becomes a new artificial horizon, shutting out the foreground and emphasizing the floating vertical Chicago skyline above an abstract floating plane.”
This CEU is underwritten by Think Wood.
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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 a recipient of the 2021 United States Artist Fellowship, Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers, Emerging Voices Award (AIA/ Young Architects Forum), Progressive Architecture (P/A) Award and Next Progressives (ARCHITECTMagazine). Jennifer is the co-editor of Blank: Speculations on CLT; author of A Guide to the Dirty South: Atlanta; faculty editor of Platform: Still Life; and guest editor for ART PAPERS special issue on architecture and design of Los Angeles. She has exhibited work at the Royal Institute of British Architects, the National Building Museum, WUHO gallery, HistoryMIAMI Museum, Yve YANG Gallery, Pinkcomma Gallery, Armstrong Gallery at Kent State University, Yale Architecture Gallery, Istanbul Modern Museum, Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway, and the Chicago Architecture Biennial. She received a B.Arch from Auburn University and a M.Arch from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where she was awarded the James Templeton Kelley Prize.
Thomas Robinson, Thomas Robinson is the founder of LEVER Architecture, a design practice with offices in Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles. His firm is widely recognized for material innovation and for pioneering work with CLT. His recent projects include 843 N Spring Street, slated to be one of the largest mass timber buildings in Los Angeles, as well as first-of-their-kind timber buildings for clients such as The Nature Conservancy and Adidas. Robinson's work also includes more than $1 million in research to develop and test wood building assemblies. He has lectured on mass timber throughout the U.S., Europe, and South America, and served as the USDA Wood Innovation Grant Visiting Professor at the University of Arkansas. LEVER was recently recognized by Fast Company as one of the world’s most innovative companies and, in 2017, was named to Architectural Record’s Design Vanguard as well as to the Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices.
Yasmin Vobis is a registered architect and co-founding principal of Ultramoderne. She studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University, where she received a M.Arch 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. In addition, she has taught at Princeton University, Rhode Island School of Design, the Cooper Union, and Brown University, and she is currently assistant professor of architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She was awarded the Founders/Arnold W. Brunner/Katherine Edwards Gordon Rome Prize in Architecture in 2016.
Aaron Forrest is a registered architect and co-founding principal of Ultramoderne. He received both his bachelor's degree and M.Arch from Princeton University. In addition to co-leading Ultramoderne, he is 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 background 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.