In 2023, Swedish architecture firm C.F. Møller will start construction of something that to many will sound ludicrous. Last December, the designers won a competition organized by HSB Stockholm to honor the local real estate titan’s upcoming centenary with an ostentatious new high-rise. Out of 3 submissions one in particular attracted a lot of attention, a thirty-four story tower made almost entirely out of wood, save for a spindly concrete core and a few steel poles on the ground floor. If constructed, the tower will be the largest mostly-wooden structure in the world. But rather than a one-off, it could be the clarion call needed to rouse the public around a new architectural trend.
At the center of this movement is a new breed of engineered timber. Pioneered by Austrian construction materials manufacturer KLH over the last decade or so, this “innovation” is basically just pieces of low-grade softwood panels, like the ones used in Ikea furniture, either glued or laminated together in alternating layers of longitudinal and latitudinal slats. The “plyscrapers” constructed with such lightweight materials go up faster and at comparable prices to concrete skyscrapers. Research by the Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the architects behind the Burj Khalifa, suggests that this material, with the aid of minor steel and concrete reinforcement, can support structures up to 42 stories and over 400 feet tall.
“Frankly we aren’t breaking a sweat,” Green told reporters this year. “It’s only public perception and emotion trumping science that stalls us moving higher.”