Debuting on 25 April, at the Chicago Architecture Center, the exhibition REFRAMED: The Future of Cities in Wood tells the story of building with mass timber and features architectural models of mass timber projects from around the world—from public spaces to office buildings and adaptive reuse to new construction. The exhibition is co-curated by the Chicago Architecture Center and the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, and presented by the Softwood Lumber Board.
The sold-out opening night panel discussion (also accessible virtually via Zoom), "Talking Tall: Can Wood Save Us?" presented the various facets of timber construction, from fire safety testing and components to architectural design and structural possibilities. Moderator Paul Allesandro, Partner, Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, led an engaging discussion with panelists Leif Johnson, Structural Engineering Director, StructureCraft; Catherine Joseph, Architect, 3XN; Ricky McLain, Senior Technical Director, Woodworks; Kevin Hyland, Principal Engineer, Fire Resistence and Containment, UL Solutions; and William Broderick, Area Sales Manager, RothoBlaas USA (see more on panelists below).
In a Q&A session with the audience, several questions emphasized topical interests: How tall can we build with timber? What is the real carbon impact with timber construction? In response to the former, Leif Johnson stated, "There's nothing really stopping us. I just think firstly, as we get taller, you're going to see more and more hybrid systems to make those work and place floorplate systems that are the best ever for the context. What's that sweet spot [that works]?"
One of humanity’s oldest construction materials is emerging as a promising solution to the sustainability challenges that every modern city confronts. With breakthroughs in engineering and manufacturing, “mass timber” has become a fresh way of using sustainably sourced wood to build structures with breathtaking design while enriching life in urban settings. REFRAMED explores the many positive aspects of building with mass timber, including sustainability and safety. It also reflects on biophilia, the human instinct to seek connections with nature (biophilic design with wood creates aesthetically pleasing environments that have been proven to promote well-being and positive mental health benefits). The exhibition also offers hands-on opportunities to experience wood through a learning pavilion constructed from mass timber, as well as a striking visual demonstration of the superior ability of mass timber to withstand fire.
REFRAMED is on view at the Chicago Architecture Center, 111 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL, from 25 April through 29 October 2023. Further events are programmed to continue the discussion on the topic of mass timber while the exhibition is open.
Architectural Record review of REFRAMED
Moderator Paul Alessandro is a Partner at Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture and has more than 25 years of experience designing complex mixed-use, residential, cultural, hospitality, and civic projects. He has led the firm's Preservation Group and specializes in the renovation, restoration, and adaptive reuse of historic structures. Alessandro's portfolio of award-winning historic projects includes the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, a landmarked turn-of-the-century athletic club transformed into a boutique hotel, and Randolph Tower City Apartments, a 43-story landmark building and Chicago's tallest terra cotta-clad tower. He most recently oversaw the renovation and landmarking of the Essex Inn Hotel, which included updating the Historic Michigan Boulevard District designation report and its 56-story residential tower addition, Essex on the Park. Alessandro believes that the unique character older structures bestow on their communities is irreplaceable and embraces the artistic and technical challenge of transforming them for contemporary use. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh.
Leif Johnson is a licensed structural engineer with over 16 years of experience designing high-profile civic structures, museums, and performing arts centers throughout the United States. Before joining StructureCraft as Structural Engineering Director in May 2021, he spent his entire career with Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA), in Seattle, Washington, where he was a Principal of MKA's Cultural Group and leader of the MKA's Timber Technical Specialty Team. Johnson grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, before attending Lawrence University, in Wisconsin, and Washington University, in St. Louis, where he obtained undergraduate degrees in Physics and Civil Engineering; Johnson stayed on at Washington University to receive his master's degree in Structural Engineering. Shortly after graduation and before moving to Seattle, he won the 2004 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Structural Engineering Traveling Fellowship, which enabled him to tour Europe to study structures inspired by natural forms for his thesis "Nature as Inspiration: Tools for Structural Art." Johnson has always loved timber engineering, and he was recently recognized for his work in timber design with a "40 Under 40" award for building, design, and construction, in 2018. Johnson brings his consulting engineering experience and passion for timber to StructureCraft and will led the new Seattle office to grow StructureCraft's work in the United States.
Catherine Joseph is an architect with 3XN, leading 3XN’s North American project teams and helping to lead the New York studio. She has experience in a range of building typologies at all phases of design and construction. Much of Joseph's work focuses on large and complex urban projects. She is adept at understanding design challenges at both the building and urban scales and at coordinating design intent within the technical constraints of a specific context, whether that is a dense urban metropolis or a university campus. Joseph's selected projects designed and developed with 3XN include T3 Bayside (mass timber, commercial, Toronto), Confidential High-Rise (mass timber, office, Confidential), Mazza Gallerie (mixed construction, residential, Washington, DC), among others. Prior to joining 3XN, she worked as an architect at FXCollaborative (formerly FXFowle), collaborating on the design of high-rise commercial and residential projects in New York City. As an architect working in New York City, Joseph’s work ranges from technical design and coordination to driving social change in favor of diversity and inclusion. She believes that being an architect is about seeing forces—identifying, understanding, and designing for both physical and social motivators. Joseph earned a Master of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a bachelor’s degree in Structural Engineering from Duke University. She is a fellow of the Urban Design Forum and an active member of the American Institute of Architects. She is an alumna of the Alice M. Baldwin Scholars Program, at Duke University, and a Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation Emerging Leader.
Ricky McLain is WoodWorks' in-house expert on tall wood buildings, providing analysis and guidance on architectural, fire and life safety, and structural design topics related to tall mass timber projects. He supports the AEC community both directly and collaboratively with WoodWorks regional directors and guides the development of education and resources related to tall wood buildings in the United States. McLain also has extensive experience in lead engineering roles related to structural design, project management, and construction administration. He is very active as a member of numerous committees and councils related to building design.
Kevin Hyland is UL Solutions' Principal Engineer for Fire Resistance and Containment within Built Environment. This role includes responsibilities for fire-rated floor-ceiling and fire-rated walls (UL263/ASTM E119/ISO 834), through penetration firestops (UL1479), joint systems (UL 2079), and fire resistive materials (SFRM/IFRM). Hyland represents UL Solutions on many standards committees, including UL/ULC, ASTM, and ISO, as well as key memberships within industry associations. He has 25 years with UL Solutions—21 of those years dedicated to managing some of UL Solutions' more complex large-scale fire certification projects. Hyland holds a Bachelor of Science in General Engineering from the University of Illinois, in Urbana-Champaign, and is based out of UL Solutions' USA office, in Northbrook, IL.
Rotho Blaas USA Inc. provides practical construction solutions for the growing mass timber and passive house building sectors. In his role as Area Sales Manager, William Broderick facilitates the transfer of Rotho Blaas' know-how and expertise in the wood carpentry industry, from the heart of the Italian Alps to the USA. Serving the Great Lakes region, Broderick networks with architects, engineers, and professional builders who are interested in using innovative European technical solutions for mass timber construction, timber frame, and wood framed buildings.