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Shell and spatial structures in timber

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Traditionally, shell and spatial structures have been constructed from steel and concrete, materials which are very familiar to structural designers and architects. However, the use of timber in gridshell and spatial structures is becoming more popular in modern architecture, made possible by advances in timber manufacturing processes.

The characteristics of timber are very different from steel and concrete and require careful consideration from an early design stage if an economical, elegant and efficient structure is to be created. The design of connections play an important role in the behaviour of timber structures, where stiff ductile connections are difficult to achieve. Arup have been involved in the design of a number of timber gridshell and spatial structures, including the Metropol Parasol Seville and Centre Pompidou Metz, which utilise different construction techniques to create complex geometrical structures.

This paper examines the practical challenges presented by timber in the design of modern spatial structures and will explore techniques utilised by existing and future projects to overcome such challenges. Advances in the timber manufacturing industry are allowing more complex forms to be created and their prevalence is likely to increase in the future. It is therefore important that both structural designers and architects adequately consider the unique properties of timber in their initial design and analysis to avoid cumbersome connections and inefficient design.
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Keywords: Timber design; indeterminate timber structures; timber connections

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Associate Director, Arup 13 Fitzroy Street, London, W1T 4BQ, United Kingdom, Email: [email protected] 2: Engineer, Arup

Publication date: August 20, 2015

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