Wooden Skyscraper?

The Burj Khalifa is the structure to be beat when it comes to surpassing the tallest building in the world. Its 2716 feet are in fact being challenged from many directions, with proposals for sites all over the world. The list includes The Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia (planned 3,280 feet)1, The Azerbaijan Tower in Azerbaijan (planned 3, 445 feet)2, and Miapolis in Miami (planned 3281 feet)3, to name a few. While the Burj Khalifa and its proposed challengers are engineering feats that give me chills even when seen just in photo or film, I still question, “how far out of context can a building be before it is just ridiculousness in the air for the sake of being in the air?”

Burj Khalifa

The Kingdom Tower

The Azerbaijan Tower


More impressive to me than the “my tower is bigger than your tower” trajectory that skyscraper design has followed, is the innovation that went into the design of the Tall Wood skyscraper. At thirty stories, this building is definitely no Burj Khalifa in height, however the fact that the bearing material is laminated wood makes this proposal far more interesting. Being designed of wood, the height is likely limited therefore a better contextual arrangement can be achieved in contrast to the tallest of the world skyscrapers. This is a building type designed to impress while still being considerate to its surroundings.

Tall Wood Proposal

The research was conducted by Michael Green and has led to the proposal for a wooden skyscraper for Vancouver. (See online published work here) This research is important in many ways. Wood construction is most commonly found in low cost residential types of buildings and it is difficult to innovate in this realm because construction of these building types has been done the same way over many years with little will or reason to make changes. This introduction to a new way of thinking about wood construction might be a catalyst for many types of projects to innovate with wood. Wood is also a resource that, if harvested properly, is a material with high renewability. It is a sustainable choice in this manner as well as when considering embodied energy required for creating and/or processing it compared to other materials. Having interest in the future of residential construction, where wood is often the choice material for structure, I am excited to see new ways in which to work with and push the material. Mark Wilson via fastcodesign.com reports that, “Green admits there are waves of testing to complete and gaps to fill in the engineering,” but if and when the gaps are filled and wooden skyscrapers begin to grace the skylines of cities, our concrete jungles may become a bit warmer.


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