Wooden construction has a magic touch

With great design, it’s often not just about the material, it’s what you do with it that really counts. This office by Shigeru Ban uses a spruce timber frame construction, that is free of screws and glue.

Located in Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, the building is full of design inspiration. One of the most obvious is also one of the most important. The whole building fits together like a kind of construction set, that also aids the carbon-neutral building to perform.

On a regular grid of square wooden columns, shaped elements are connected via thick, oval-shaped pins to each other. Slotting many of these wooden beams together generates the skeleton of the building, which is finished using concrete and glass.

In the right-angled structure, the untreated timber is CNC-milled to precision. This filigree support structure is made of locally sourced wood and is assembled without screws, joints of glue. It is simply fitted together.

The architects state that the main timber construction is the most important innovation in this project. This project, built by construction engineers Creation Holz, shows an intuitive way of constructing a wooden structure that makes the building read like a construction set. Just looking at the frame-work, you can see how the building fits together, and, just as importantly, how it can be taken apart again.

From both technical and environmental point of view, it is this timber structure is a very specialised solution for this type of climate-neutral office building. The structure can really only be made using wood. This is because wood has a specific strength, density and the ability to be shaped into the necessary elements. Leaving these structural elements open and visible adds to the character of the interior spaces.

Artfully placed lighting between each pair of horizontal wooden beams draws attention to the elegant construction. The entire building is finished with high-quality glass that means a very low energy-transmission. Best of all, the carbon neutral project be taken apart again into its components whenever needed.

Images via Shigeru Ban Architects. Image credits: Didier Boy de la Tour & Shigeru Ban Architects.


  1. David Trubridge says:

    Absolutely beautiful and inspirational, but it is a nonsense to say that it is free of glue with all those laminated beams!!

  2. Philip says:

    It’s true that the laminated beams are glued. But the construction itself doesn’t use glue, so the construction can be taken apart without damage. Of course the laminated beam can then be re-used elsewhere. Neat, right?