Found-forms and Timber Shelters

School has started again and it has us thinking about recess (who doesn’t love recess?) and thereby the playscapes kids enjoy. We began asking what role wood has in these spaces which brought to the discussion a recent project at the Lilac Adventure Zone Playground. A “natural playground” in Highland Park in Rochester, NY by Barton & Loguidice, the space highlights found forms for play and modern pavilions for shelter.

There has been a surge in natural playgrounds [natural playscapes] which inherently focus on wood and the natural landscape. “Biophilic design, connecting with nature, was central to this playground project,” explained Tom Robinson, senior landscape architect, and LEED AP at Barton & Loguidice.

Biophilia. It’s a term that we’re hearing with regularity these days, and that’s exciting! From Edward Wilson’s “Biophilia” meaning ‘the rich, natural pleasure that comes from being surrounded by living organisms’. Research is conclusive that access to nature and nature-inspired spaces help reduce stress and illness. “We’re trying to recreate the experience of playing in the woods, in fields with rocks and sticks. The idea is to encourage exploration and free play with natural materials,” continued Tom.

Many young explorers and adventurers amidst the natural elements of Lilac Adventure Zone Playground.

The playground itself evolved as the natural materials arrived, trees, branches, rocks salvaged from other park project renovations. “The elements within the playground tend to change and morph as materials initially arrive, and as time passes and elements need to be removed/replaced.”

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Wholesome Foods, Brews, and Timbers

Last week we were alerted to awesome photos of a Whole Foods Market in Chicago, IL that features our trusses in the bar area and reclaimed wood from our sister company, Pioneer Millworks, throughout. It’s funny how often “finished shots” of a project don’t arrive until a year or two (or more!) after its completion. This project was no exception having opened in early 2017. I struck out to learn more about it, connecting with Mark Scherrer, Senior Associate at BRR Architecture and lead architect for this particular Whole Foods, known to us as “Lakeview”. Mark recalled the store with ease and answered questions before I even asked:

If you’re not familiar with Whole Foods, they’re an award-winning national grocer with solid ethos and product focus on natural and organic foods. The stores are an experience, each one unique–any chance we have to visit one, we take it!

Each Whole Foods Market is one-of-a-kind, very purposefully designed. Mark explained that for Lakeview: “We knew we wanted the store experience to end with a big design feature. There’s a sense of ‘arrival’ to the Red Star Bar that you feel when looking out from the grand lobby, and customers are encouraged to make this part of their overall shopping experience.”

 

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Crafting and Embracing the Flexibility of Glulams

“That’s not a glulam!” I said, incredulously. 

“It is!” Eric insisted with a laugh, raising his hands in defense.


Seeing as Eric is one of the most sincere and honest people around, I figured he had to be right. “Okay,” I replied. “Let’s talk glulams.”

Glulam use around the world has developed into some crazy, creative, and nearly unbelievable structures:

Glulams have been incorporated around the world for very intricate and challenging designs, such as this pavilion project for the 2015 Mulan World Expo by X-TU’s Architects in France.

Some of the basics on glued laminated timbers (glulams) that I commonly hear: they come in just about any size and shape (meaning they can make spans that solid timber simply doesn’t grow to); they can achieve geometric shapes and structural performance that is otherwise unattainable with solid timber; they’re inherently stable and dry; they have visible layers of wood. As a visual person the look is always top of mind for me which is where this conversation started:

The project that started this conversation…what do you think of the curving bottom chord of this timber and steel truss? Solid or glulam? (Check out the end of this post for the answer.)

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Sweeping Spans for Meditation

Kim Son Meditation Center, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist place of repose and worship, will be taking delivery of their 10 glulaminated and steel trusses very soon. The trusses are just over 60’ long, and 16’ high. As seen in the accompanying images, the community’s goal was to express a sweeping sense of structure and space, perhaps a bit like clouds moving across an overhead sky.

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