This New Timber Skyscraper Design for Chicago is Truly Spectacular

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Architecture firm Perkins + Will has released renderings of it ‘River Beech Tower’ timber skyscraper design for Chicago, and they’re seriously jaw-dropping. Developed as part of a new masterplan for Chicago, the design examines the possibilities of super-tall timber structures made of engineered wood. It’s an exciting look at what could be coming over the next decade, as wood continues to gain popularity as a primary material for large urban buildings.

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“The River Beech Tower seeks to provide the understanding necessary to design and construct tall buildings using today’s new generation of engineered timber materials. Structures designed with timber will be lighter weight, require less material, and have less environmental impact than their steel or concrete counterparts. Trees entrain carbon as they grow, meaning even after the manufacturing process, engineered timber is inherently carbon neutral or better. In terms of overall carbon emissions, selecting a wood structure may be the single most impactful strategy the design team can make.”

– Perkins + Will

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The tower contains 300 duplex units arranged around a central atrium, using mostly modular prefabricated structures as basic building blocks. The designers focus on cross-ventilation and opportunities for vertically accessible community and amenity spaces, with lots of elevated ‘sky parks’ on various levels visible through the honeycomb-like perimeter bracing of the structure.

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The design also make use of only existing, commercially available materials rather than concepts that haven’t been fully realized or tested. The diagonal grids of the structural system take advantage of timber’s natural axial strength, connected to internal wood cross-bracing. This eliminates the need for traditional aluminum mullions.

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