Professor Alex de Rijke, a founding director of wood-loving architecture practice de Rijke Marsh Morgan — dRMM — reflects on the invention of hardwood CLT and its latest application in progress at Maggie’s Oldham.
The world’s first permanent building constructed entirely of hardwood cross-laminated timber (CLT) is being built in the UK. Designed by dRMM, Maggie’s Oldham is a simple timber rectangle featuring a central, tree filled light-well. The building hovers over a generous pine and birch garden, supported by slender columns.
Hardwood CLT, a relatively new material made from highly sustainable American tulipwood, was selected as the principal material for its health benefits, strength and expressive, warm finish.
Wood is known to reduce blood pressure, heartrates and recovery times; it has more health and wellbeing benefits than other building materials, making it the right fit, structurally and conceptually, for Maggie’s Oldham.
Tulipwood CLT was invented in a collaboration between dRMM Architects, the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and Arup, for dRMM’s London Design Festival Landmark project ‘Endless Stair’. This was the first time a hardwood was used to make cross-laminated timber. Since then it has been gaining attention for its advantages over traditional building materials. It has a better strength-to-weight ratio than concrete or steel, is a carbon negative resource, and has a more sophisticated finish than softwood.
The boundaries of the material were further tested in ‘The Smile’, a structurally ambitious installation for the 2016 London Design Festival designed by Alison Brooks Architects in collaboration with AHEC and Arup.
Now, as construction at Maggie’s Oldham progresses and the internal fit-out begins, we are in the midst of another pivotal moment for modern construction.
Research and development in engineered timber design and construction is deeply important to dRMM and we have pioneered its use since 2000. We were responsible for the UK’s first CLT building the Kingsdale School Sports and Music hall, as well as Naked House the CLT flatpack housing prototype. I and fellow director Jonas Lencer have presented at major timber conferences worldwide and, in 2005, I predicted engineered timber would be “the concrete of the 21st century”
My experiments with laminated timber have progressed over 30 years in practice and academe, looking at the structural, environmental and aesthetic properties of a range of materials, from softwood to plywood. The opportunity to develop tulipwood CLT with AHEC and Arup for ‘Endless Stair’, and now for Maggie’s at Oldham was taken with the intent of demonstrating to the construction industry the ability and potential of the material.
The application of sustainably grown hardwood, particularly tulipwood CLT, in building is endless. Its environmental, structural and visual qualities are unquestionable and its use at Maggie’s, which is due for completion this summer, will also be a manifesto for wood as the natural choice for the architecture of health and psychological well-being.
Maggie’s Oldham has been made possible through the generosity of the Stoller Charitable Trust as well as the Kinder Trust. Maggie’s is an independent charity that provides free practical, emotional and social support for people with cancer and their family and friends.
This article was original published by the TTJ.
View more about this project by clicking here.
Maggie’s Oldham: Project Thumbnail
|Volume of tulipwood CLT used:||17 cubic meters|
|Construction status:||Building is watertight|
|Completion:||Late May 2017|
|PROJECT LOCATION:||Royal Oldham Hospital, Oldham|
|NO. OF STOREYS:||1|
|GROSS INTERNAL AREA (M2):||260 sqm|