New exhibit explores the future of wood structures and sustainability

New exhibit explores the future of wood structures and sustainability

By Jason Griffiths

December 6, 2021

The College of Architecture and the PLAIN Design-Build studio present the XX-LAM exhibition which opens on December 16 at the Omaha by Design gallery. XX-LAM showcases the future of wood structures and their architectural possibilities. This exhibit explores the spatial and structural possibilities of curved, cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction. It offers the latest developments in the move toward engineered lumber structures as a sustainable alternative to concrete and steel.

XX-LAM is the most recent project from UNL Associate Professor of Architecture Jason Griffiths’ PLAIN Design-Build studio. PLAIN is a design-build collective based in the College of Architecture that explores mass timber buildings for nonprofit organizations within Nebraska.

“Perhaps not since the early 19th century has timber played such a significant role in the way we think about architecture,” said Griffiths. “Advances in the material science of timber lamination have radically changed the perception of wooden structures. Today, laminated timber buildings offer efficient, sustainable and affordable alternatives to concrete and steel. In addition to carbon sequestration, CLT also promotes the future of the forestry industry and helps diversify timber growing regions within the US.”

The PLAIN Design-Build studio has achieved the first two CLT structures in Nebraska built with a panelized system commonly used for low and midrise buildings. However, recent developments in the vacuum forming process also allow designers to consider curved components. Advanced bonding patterns, CNC mold making and lamination techniques which can now produce vaulted, domed and curved forms that offer even more flexibility for designers.

These forms will also provide opportunities for a new architectural language of timber buildings. Project XX-LAM explores this possibility through a creative approach to the act of making. It adopts the term “cross lamination” as a conceptual strategy wherein material science of wood lamination is combined, or “crossed,” with the discipline of late modernist formal exercises popular between 1970s and 1990s often described as the “kit-of-parts problem.”

XX-LAM was developed in collaboration with students from the UNL Masters of Architecture program in partnership with Nebraska Innovation Studio, the Nebraska Forest Services and Omaha by Design. PLAIN studio students involved in this project include Caroline Goertz, Jacob Urban, Colton Corrin, Christopher Bean and Pegah Rahmani.