The advantages of using timber frames in building and construction have been well rehearsed on this very blog. Timber comes from a clean, renewable source, it is not expensive, easy to transport, malleable; the list goes on. But one reason that timber is not ideal to every type of structure is that it does present some design challenges. While it certainly can be used to create gorgeous buildings and structures, often other materials are preferred, particularly in the case of artistic designs. That said, there are plenty of examples of iconic timber structures that stand as great examples of just how flexible and malleable this material can be.
The Metropol Parasol in Seville
Situated right next to the main square in Seville, Spain, The Metropol Parasol is one of the largest timber structures in existence. This modern construction spans a distance of 150m in length and 70m in width and was brings to mind a collection of mushrooms, though many see it as a group of trees. Despite its beauty and popularity with tourists, the Metropol has been surrounded in controversy, largely due to delays in its construction and the great cost to the city that came with building it. Indeed, the ultra-modern design seems to belie the city’s medieval tone, and wasn’t completed until 2011, some six years after construction commenced. Tourists can climb the structure and enjoy gorgeous panoramic views of the city of Seville.
The Great Eastern Temple
With construction finishing in the year 751, the Great Eastern Temple stands as a testament to the fact that timber structures can stand the test of time. Located in Nara, Japan, it houses one of the world’s most important Buddhist artifacts and the largest Buddhist statue. It would be disingenuous to claim that this beautiful Buddhist temple had not had its share of setbacks along the way, and reconstruction has taken place to repair and restore the building on numerous occasions over the past few hundred years. But nevertheless one cannot help but be impressed by the age of the Great Eastern Temple, which goes by various other names including Tōdai-ji.
Interestingly, reports have surfaced indicating that there are various valuable items hidden in the walls, including swords and jewels, which have been discovered by x-raying the building. By all accounts, this is a building well worth seeing if you ever get the chance to visit Japan.
The Superior Dome
Located in the state of Michigan, USA, the Superior Dome is a stadium that opened back in 1991. Constructed out of timber, it was known as the ‘world’s largest wooden dome’ when it was completed and to this day is used by the Northern Michigan University for football games and all sorts of other events. This is another example of the malleability of timber as a construction material, as the dome is built strong to withstand the harsh weather conditions in Michigan including up to 1310km/h winds and 60 pounds per square foot of snow. It also covers a massive 5-acre area and can hold over 10 thousand people, though its official capacity is 8 thousand.
There are countless other impressive timber structures around the world, as we’ve just listed a handful that you may not have heard of before. Timber remains the most common and widely used construction material for good reason, with its low cost, availability and ease of use.