Timber beams were woven ‘like threads in fabric’ for the SPLAM pavilion, which serves as an open-air learning lab at a Chicago school.
The structure is the result of an ongoing collaboration between architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and the University of Michigan Taubman College, and shows a novel approach to building with timber. The pavilion is more lightweight than traditional building framing methods, and uses almost half as much material as a cross-laminated timber panel.
According to SOM Design Partner Scott Duncan, the pavilion was made by ‘weaving together timber beams like threads in fabric” – which means smaller pieces of wood can be used, and taken from rapidly renewable forests or even salvaged from existing dismantled buildings.
Robotic fabrication also played a key role, allowing the pavilion to be put together as a kit of parts delivered to the site. While it was publicly unveiled as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennale, SPLAM will remain a permanent fixture at EPIC Academy’s South Shore campus, where it will host outdoor classes and events. This year’s bumper architecture festival continues until 18 December 2021.
See more visual highlights from the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennale below.