London Design Festival has grown unprecedently over its 16 years of existence, to include a roster of districts, public institutions and so-called design trails. While some of these features have been and gone as time has passed, others have become a staple on the programme – returning year on year to present the public with new experiences.
Speak to many festival goers, and they will often point out one of these success stories as the installations by the American Hardwood Export Council's (AHEC), which pop-up every September as part of the festival.
Photography by Matt Alexander
This year was no exception, with onlookers flocking to the V&A museum in South Kensington to get a look at the council's latest project, created in collaboration with Waugh Thistleton Architects and ARUP. Towering over – yet not overpowering – the museum's elegant new Exhibition Road entrance designed by AL_A, the MultiPly structure was included as one of LDF 2018's Landmark Projects. As a key point on the festival's itinerary, it aimed to showcase two of the key issues facing our modern society: the need for housing, and the looming threat of climate change.
But most importantly, it had to present these issues in an engaging and future-thinking way – a way that the public could get to grips with, while not getting bogged down in facts, figures and buzzwords.
Waugh Thistleton's solution to this was an interactive modular maze-like installation, built out of a reusable panel system made with 60cmb of American tulipwood.
Its modularity provides a look into the future of adaptable city dwellings, while its use of American tulipwood CLT makes the entire structure totally carbon neutral – "all carbon emissions due to hardwood extraction and processing, together with fabrication and installation of the structure and all transport stages, are offset by the carbon stored in the finished structure and the energy generated by incineration of process wood waste," claimed the firm.
Photography by Matt Alexander
Throughout the duration of the festival, visitors could climb through the structure, with netted lookout points providing the expansive views of the surrounding museum.
"The structure will lead people a merry dance up and down staircases and across bridges exploring space and light," said director Andrew Waugh – whose firm Waugh Thistleton joins an illustrious list of architects who have collaborated with AHEC and Arup on Landmark Projects for LDF, including Alison Brooks (The Smile, 2017) and dRMM (The Endless Stair, 2013).
"Waugh Thistleton has been pioneering innovative uses of wood in construction for decades," added David Venables, AHEC’s European Director. “MultiPly explores a new, more sustainable way of building, bringing together a readily available carbon-negative material – American tulipwood – with a modular design.”
Photograph by Andy Stagg
While the pavilion's primary aim was to confront two of the age’s biggest challenges – the need for housing and the urgency to fight climate change – its aesthetics played an important part too.
According to ARUP, the project's engineers, it was the use of CLT that kept the structure looking sharp and precise, with textured wooden surfaces designed to contrast with the surrounding museum architecture.
Carolina Bartram, Lead Project Director at Arup commented: “There is increasing topical discourse on the use of CLT as a material of choice for commercial and residential development. MultiPly provides a fabulous opportunity to showcase how advances in timber technology, together with a focus on modularity and efficiency, means we should embrace timber for future developments.”
MultiPly was on show as part of this year's London Design Festival and remained open until 1 October 2018. It was designed by Waugh Thistleton Architects, supported by the American Hardwood Export Council and engineered by Arup.