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‘The Smile’

By Architect

Alison Brooks

And Arup For

The London

Design Festival

The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC)

has collaborated with Alison Brooks Architects,

Arup and the London Design Festival to present

a cross-laminated tulipwood structure, ‘The

Smile’ at the Chelsea College of Art Rootstein

Hopkins Parade Ground from 17 September

until 12 October.

The Smile is one of the Festival’s Landmark

Projects, which can be inhabited and explored

by the public. The spectacular, curved, tubular

timber structure measures 3.5 m high, 4.5 m

wide and 34 m long and is effectively a beam

curving up at both ends.

Showcasing the structural and spatial poten-

tial of cross-laminated American tulipwood,

Alison Brooks’ concept is the first ever ‘me-

ga-tube’ made with construction-sized panels

of hardwood CLT.

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is an engineered timber

that can be used to make the walls and floors of entire

buildings. It has a layered construction with the wood

fibres turned at right angles in each successive layer,

creating a panel with equal strength in both directions,

just like plywood. Weight for weight, CLT is stronger than

concrete and it can also be machined to incredibly high

tolerances.

This makes it ideal for prefabrication and rapid as-

sembly, reducing construction times by up to 30%.

CLT is usually made of a softwood called spruce, bet-

ter known as the Christmas tree. Together with Arup,

AHEC has started a process of experimenting with CLT

made from fast-grown North American tulipwood.

Testing has shown that the tulipwood is considerably

stronger than spruce; it also has a superior

appearance.

The Smile is the first project in the world to use large

hardwood CLT panels, in fact the entire structure is made

from just 12 huge tulipwood panels, each up to 14 m

long and 4.5 m wide.

Fabricating these panels in a real CLT production plant

has been an important step forward, showcasing how

the material can be used for commercial projects.

The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC)

Contractors World UK Ireland Vol 6 No 2

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