The UK capital could soon add timber high-rises to its skyline courtesy of an architectural concept produced by researchers from Cambridge University for submission to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

The high-rise proposal developed by Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture in collaboration with PLP Architecture and engineering firm Smith and Wallwork envisages the creation of a 80-storey timber tower within the City of London’s Barbican Centre, which is one of the largest performing arts centres in Europe.

The mixed-use tower would rise to a height of roughly 300 metres, equivalent to nearly ten times the height of the Australia’s tallest timber high-ris, the 32-metre Forte apartment complex in Melbourne.

Comprising an integral part of the Barbican Centre, the timber tower would contain roughly 1 million square feet of floor space as well as host more than 1,000 apartment units.

Dr. Michael Ramage, Director of Cambridge Centre for Natural Material Innovation, believes that the use of timber in London high-rises could help satisfy the city’s future urban development needs, produce a sense of reassurance in occupants as well as be in keeping with the character of the city’s heritage buildings

“The Barbican was designed in the middle of the last century to bring residential living into the city of London — and it was successful. We’ve put our proposals on the Barbican as a way to imagine what the future of construction could look like in the 21st century,” said Ramage. 

“If London is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify. One way is taller buildings. We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers. The fundamental premise is that timber and other natural materials are vastly underused and we don’t give them nearly enough credit. Nearly every historic building, from King’s College Chapel to Westminster Hall, has made extensive use of timber.”

Architects around the world are increasingly to wood as a safe and viable construction material for high-rise projects following improvements engineered timber building products.

The University of British Columbia is currently working on the 53-metre high Brock Commons student residence, which will be the tallest timber building in the world upon completion. The project will consist primarily of engineered timber products in the form of cross laminated timber floor slabs and columns made from glued laminated wood.