If architecture firm Perkins + Will’s latest concept takes root, the Windy City’s next residential skyscraper might just be one to go against the grain.
The company recently unveiled designs for the River Beech Tower, an 80-story timber high-rise that would be the world’s tallest wood skyscraper if built. Conceived in collaboration with engineering studio Thornton Tomasetti and a team from England’s University of Cambridge, the concept was proposed as part of Perkins + Will’s master plan for its ongoing 14-acre Riverline development project in Chicago.
Though wood may seem like a surprising material for a skyscraper, architects are exploring its use more and more because of its low cost, durability, and sustainability. And while previously completed and proposed wood buildings have been limited to 18, 20, or even 40 stories tall, River Beech soars above them all thanks to its unique diagonal-grid framework that takes full advantage of timber’s natural strength, allowing the structure to forgo traditional reinforcement materials. “Many timber buildings rely on concrete and steel, which is fine, but we wanted to explore the purity of designing the project using primarily timber,” Todd Snapp, a design principal at Perkins + Will, recently told the Financial Times.
Perkins + Will’s design has been shortlisted for a 2016 World Architecture Festival award in the Residential – Future Projects category. If realized, the tower—which contains 300 duplex apartments as well as communal spaces—would surpass the soon-to-be tallest wood structures, Vancouver’s 18-story skyscraper currently under construction and Amsterdam’s 21-story Haut building, which is scheduled to begin construction in late 2017.