University of Arkansas timber research centre moves forward

January 2021
The competition-winning design for the Anthony Timberlands Center at the University of Arkansas is moving forward — we are probing the structural concepts and ensuring the scheme makes best use of emerging technologies and local natural resources. An extension of the university’s architecture school, the centre will be a home for applied timber research.

Whitby Wood was a member of the project’s competition team, led by Dublin-based Grafton Architects, which was selected from a shortlist of 69 practices spanning ten countries. Our expertise in timber engineering and carbon reduction contributed to the success of the scheme which is to be an exemplar of appropriate and sustainable construction. More on this project >

Anthony Timberlands Center

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, Grafton’s founders and directors, are winners of the 2020 Pritzker Prize and RIBA Royal Gold Medal laureates. Their thoughtful and dramatic work has been recognised around the world, and we are delighted to be working with them and their US collaborators, architect Modus Studio and structural engineer Tatum Smith Welcher.

The winning design was described by the competition judges as combining “pragmatic ideas with a poetic solution. Simultaneously complex and simple”. Farrell commented that “the building itself is a Story Book of Timber. We want people to experience the versatility of timber, both as the structural ‘bones’ and the enclosing ‘skin’ … [it’s] a teaching tool, displaying the strength, colour, grain, texture and beauty of the various timbers used”.

Whitby Wood associate director Elliott Connolly … “I’m honoured to be working on what has got to be one of the most exciting and world-leading projects in timber engineering right now. The design is inspiring, and the opportunity to explore the possibilities of complex mass timber structures is a great challenge. The idea is to produce a striking, practical building that reflects the potential for timber construction — and character of the local area — while celebrating the structural engineering … and to do this we are employing the latest technologies, construction methods and design tools”.

Associate director Kelly Harrison adds: “The project uses traditional timber construction and innovations in the industry, plus new innovations that we will test. A matrix of local timber species is proposed, with the most appropriate type for each structural/ architectural/ carbon/ transportation situation considered in the round. And we are adopting digital design processes that communicate the decision-making, and these are to be used as learning tools for the students — they will be joining us in design team meetings. I get more and more excited in each and every design workshop”.

Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, University of Arkansas
Designed by Grafton Architects in collaboration with Modus Studio. Structural engineers: Whitby Wood, Tatum Smith Welcher. MEP engineer: Affiliated Engineers Inc. Environmental engineer: Atelier Ten

Rendering : courtesy Grafton Architects

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