September 2019

With the Muslim population of Britain doubling every fifteen years, the pressure on its places of worship is intense. No sooner is a mosque built than it overflows. Enter the Cambridge Mosque project, designed by Marks Barfield Architects, which features a flowing timber lattice for Europe’s first sustainable mosque. With a strongly contemporary design that also reflects both Islamic and British sacred traditions, timber was chosen as the principal material for the building structure because it is one of the most sustainable building materials available. The mosque is testament to the timeless appeal and beauty of timber and perhaps may serve as an inspiration for new mosques here in the Middle East.

We also take a look at the unique Urbach Tower – a 14m-tall timber tower made from self-shaping wood. Engineers have harnessed the natural shrinking process of wood to create the first self-twisted tower in Germany and this pioneering development constitutes a paradigm shift in timber manufacturing from elaborate and energy-intensive mechanical forming processes that require heavy machinery to a process where the material shapes entirely by itself. More importantly, it represents a shift in design thinking, as well as new computational simulations for more accurate predictions, which now allow us to use this moisture induced swelling and shrinking to design and program specific self-shaping movements at a larger scale.

Upon its completion in March of this year, Mjøstårnet in Norway was officially verified as the world’s tallest timber tower by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). Designed by Voll Arkitekter, it took the title of world’s tallest timber building from the 53m-high Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver, which has a hybrid wood and concrete structure and Treet in Bergen, Norway, which is 49m high. We take an in-depth look at the construction of this landmark timber tower and we also hear from the architects themselves who outline the design inspiration and thought process behind this engineering marvel.

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