6 wooden ‘plyscrapers’ around the world that push sustainability boundaries

  •   7 June 2017

The wheels of the engineered timber revolution, three years ago just in their infancy, are now well into maturity. While Lendlease’s Forte in Melbourne once claimed the title of the tallest timber apartment building in the world, more and more architects, engineers, builders and developers are starting to experiment with large-scale mass timber residences.

Below, we explore six wooden ‘plyscraper’ projects from around the world that push the boundaries of sustainability and engineered timber construction.

Terrace House by Shigeru Ban


The developers at PortLiving are billing Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban’s first Canadian project as the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world. Currently, this title is held by the University of British Columbia’s Brock Commons student residence; the first mass wood, steel and concrete hybrid project in the world to have reached 18 storeys in height.

Although not much information about the size and height of Ban’s project has been released, renders show a sloping roof building towering over Coal Harbour in Vancouver. The upper levels of the structure will feature an engineered timber frame supported by a concrete and steel core. The wood will be sourced exclusively from British Columbia.

Hypérion by Jean Paul Viguier in partnership with Eiffage and Woodeum


Named after the tallest living tree on earth, Hypérion is a 50-metre-tall residential tower in Bordeaux that will be built with a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure, laminated veneer lumber (LVL), and a glulam post and beam substructure.

“In environmental terms, the project is representative of a new generation of low-carbon buildings,” the architects say. “The lightness and stiffness of solid wood CLT, combined with the strength of glulam and LVL technology, takes timber construction to new heights.

Featuring a series of cantilevered balconies, the tower is set to begin construction this year. Delivery is expected at the end of 2019.

Dalston Lane by Waugh Thistleton Architects


Waugh Thistleton is no stranger to CLT construction, having had the honour of delivering the “original timber tower” – London’s Murray Grove – in 2008. Today the firm continues to set new records, with Dalson Lane, its landmark project, set to be the world’s largest pure CLT building.

The 10-storey, 121-unit development is made entirely of CLT – from the external, party and core walls, through to the floors and stairs. The fact that the structure weighs just a fifth of what a concrete building of the same size would weigh also meant the building could reach greater heights than was previously thought possible on a neglected brownfield site.

Trätoppen by Anders Berensson Architects


Anders Berensson Architects was commissioned to design a skyscraper that would replace an old but famous car park in Stockholm’s city centre. Rather than demolishing ‘Parkaden’ – perhaps Sweden’s most famous car park, designed by Hans Asplund – the team designed a slender wooden ‘plyscraper’ that would stand inside the car park, leaving its existing façade intact.

According to the design team, the new CLT building will be 40 storeys tall, and be retracted six metres from the existing car park’s façade. The CLT façade will act as a continuation of the numerical pattern already feature in Parkaden.


Aside from drawing attention to the tower’s height (the building could be the tallest in Stockholm’s city centre), the façade will also act as a sun screen to keep the building “cool and energy-efficient”.

31 of the 33 floors that protrude from the existing car park will be dedicated to residential units.

Framework by LEVER Architecture


SHoP Architects’ plans for a 10-storey residential timber tower in Manhattan may have been axed, but its fellow winner from the 2015 United States Department of Agriculture Tall Wood Building Prize competition, LEVER Architecture, is moving forward with their 12-storey tower in Oregon.

Framework is anticipated to be the first timber high-rise in the United States, made entirely of CLT. It is to function as a mixed-use project, combining retail and public exhibition on the ground level with five floors of offices and 60 units of affordable housing. The commercial tenants of Framework will be ‘B corporations’, “businesses certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency”.

“The housing component of the project accommodates residents earning less than 60% of the Area Median Income,” LEVER Architecture adds.

HAUT by Team V Architecture



Billed as a serious contender to become the tallest timber tower in the world, HAUT is to be a 21-storey residential building by the River Amstel in Amsterdam. The design features an energy-generating façade characterized by strong, clear lines of light grey floor bands and tail windows, and an apparently random pattern of cantilevering balconies.

Designed in collaboration with Arup, HAUT will contain approximately 55 apartments of different sizes, offering buyers freedom to determine both the size and layout of their units.

HAUT is slated for completion in 2019.


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