500 Year Old Timbers Begin 4th Life

From tree to canal lock to restaurant: In a historic timber reclamation and upcycling story, 500-year-old timbers enter their fourth life (or third use) at Point of the Bluff Vineyards in the Finger Lakes Region of NY:

In the late 90’s our sister company, Pioneer Millworks, salvaged massive, 37″ x 42″ x 48′ Douglas fir timbers from one of the Welland Canal locks in Ontario, Canada. The trees culled for the timbers were 400+ years old when they were harvested and served the canal for nearly 60 years.

From the beginning–a bit history of on the heavy timbers:

37″ x 42″ x 48′ Douglas fir timbers from the Welland Canal Lock. The trees were at least 400 years old when they were harvested in the early 1900’s. 

The falls and rapids of the Niagara River presented a major obstacle for an uninterrupted waterway from the Atlantic Ocean to the American heartland. To circumvent the river, the Welland Canal, with eight large locks, was built. Initiated by local businessmen, the first canal was built in 1829. The present-day Welland Canal is the fourth to be constructed. The difference of 99.5 m (326.5 feet) between the levels of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is now overcome with 43.4 km (27 miles) of canal.

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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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