Curated and designed by Yugon Kim and Tomomi Itakura, founding partners of Boston-based architecture firm ikd, and National Building Museum curator and Virginia Tech architecture professor Susan Piedmont-Palladino, the exhibition makes the case that mass timber is a new frontier in low-carbon building. It also beats back the fears that have kept wood structural systems out of large buildings since the 1871 Chicago Fire.
Walk into the cavernous atrium of the National Building Museum a few blocks north of DC’s National Mall, and you’ll find a piece of wood whose scale rivals the 75-foot-tall, 8-foot-diameter masonry columns it sits next to. This 64-foot-tall plank, which the curators of the current exhibit Timber City have dubbed “The Pylon,” floats next to another 40-foot-long, 10-foot-tall section called “The Beam.”
Together, they’re a potent demonstration of the power of mass timber, a back-to-the-future structural material that uses one of the oldest building materials on the planet in stronger, exceptionally sustainable ways.
Timber City pays homage to cross-laminated timber (CLT), which gains its strength — comparable to steel — from joining perpendicularly stacked sheets of wood with adhesive.