London Design Festival: Landmark Project The Smile by Alison Brooks – Alison Brooks Architects have designed an urban installation for this year’s London Design Festival that showcases the structural and spatial potential of cross–laminated hardwood, using American tulipwood. The Smile is a collaboration with AHEC, Arup and Merk.
“The curved form allows the Smile to cantilever out from its centre point to reach out into space. The curved floor, curved ceiling and curved walls create a dynamic and unfamiliar internal space. It is an undulating environment, between a landscape, adventure playground, bridge and a diving board.”
Alison Brooks Architects
“The Smile is important because it will create the first-ever use of industrial-sized panels of hardwood CLT (cross laminated timber). This is the creation of a brand-new product and a new use of hardwood that could transform the way architects and engineers approach timber construction.”
American Hardwood Export Council
Using construction sized panels of hardwood CLT for the first time, Alison Brooks’
concept is of a 3.5m high and 36m long curved rectangular tube – a very pure and
efficient structural form and the first ever mega-tube made of timber.
The timber tube is curved into a long upside down arc – hence its name – which,
like a wheel, only touches the ground at one point. The curved form allows the
Smile to cantilever out from its centre point to reach out into space. The cantilevers
hover above the ground, creating sheltered outdoor spaces. Each end of the tube
is open to the air; cinematic apertures that offer balcony views to the landscape. At
night these apertures will project light from each end, creating an endless smile.
The curved floor, curved ceiling and curved walls create a dynamic and unfamiliar
internal space. It is an undulating environment, something between a landscape, an
adventure playground, a bridge and a diving board.
Arup’s engineering team are working with us to derive the most efficient structural
form, using only 80 cubic metres of wood to create an 180 square metre space.
The forces of tension and compression working in the timber CLT walls will be
expressed by perforations in its elevations. These will generate patterns of light
across the Smile’s interior spaces during the day, to become an urban lantern at
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