The Eye

Think Concrete Is Stronger Than Timber? This London Pavilion Wants to Prove You Wrong.

American_Hardwood_Smile_0375_1

Dax Stewart

The Smile is an urban pavilion on display at the London Design Festival that shows off the virtuosity of cross-laminated timber. Designed by London-based Canadian architect Alison Brooks and engineered by Arup, the Smile is a 112-foot-long, 10-foot-high curved tube engineered from American tulipwood whose ends are cantilevered into an approximation of giant upturned lips.

American_Hardwood_Smile_0670

Dax Stewart

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

“This is the happy face of the ever-evolving timber revolution,” Brooks said in a project description, “a small building that performs big miracles by demonstrating how hardwood CLT can perform as a structural material.”

American_Hardwood_Smile_0831

Dax Stewart

Advertisement

Made from small planks of wood that are glued together in a crisscross arrangement, CLT is said to be greener and as fire-resistant as traditional building materials, lightweight but stronger than concrete. It’s increasingly a 21st-century building material of choice, with architects around the world already racing to build the tallest timber skyscraper on the planet.

American_Hardwood_Smile_0728

Dax Stewart

Advertisement
American_Hardwood_Smile_1054

Dax Stewart

Advertisement

While CLT is usually made from spruce, Arup and the American Hardwood Export Council have been experimenting with using abundant and fast-growing North American tulipwood, which the engineers say has proved both stronger and better-looking than spruce. They used construction-sized CLT panels fastened together using 4,000 foot-long screws.

Advertisement
American_Hardwood_Smile_1002

Dax Stewart

American_Hardwood_Smile_0979

Dax Stewart

Advertisement

The structure is anchored to a wooden cradle filled with 20 tons of steel counterweights. Thanks to all this impressive engineering, the slender structure can support 60 people on one end without turning into a giant see-saw.

American_Hardwood_Smile_0988_amended

Dax Stewart

Advertisement
American_Hardwood_Smile_1040_2

Dax Stewart

Advertisement