Danish architecture studio BIG, alongside faculty at the University of Kansas, has unveiled its design for the mass-timber Makers’ KUbe in Kansas, USA.

The structure will serve as an educational building for the University of Kansas (KU) School of Architecture & Design in Lawrence, Kansas. BIG’s design was chosen as part of an open call, based on the “needs and wishes” of the students and faculty.

The 50,000-square-foot educational building will have a diagrid structure made completely from wood, a feat achieved through the use of notched glued laminated timber (glulam) and dowels based on traditional Japanese joinery techniques to eliminate the need for steel fasteners or plates.

BIG’s Makers’ KUbe will be located in a square among buildings at the University of Kansas

“Our design for the consolidated design studios at KU seeks to deploy all aspects of the profession in three distinct interventions: preservation, adaptation and new construction,” said BIG founder Bjarke Ingels.

“The Makers’ KUbe is conceived as a showcase in timber tectonics, traditional joinery, robotic manufacturing and sustainable materials.”

The building will have six storeys and be placed in a plaza surrounded by pre-existing structures, with bridges on its second level connecting it on two sides to the adjacent Chalmers and Marvin Halls.

BIG KU mass timber cube
It will have an all wood structure

It will have chamfered edges on all of the corners, creating entrance canopies on the ground floor and terraces up top. The facade will be completely clad in glass, with some of the panels open to the inside, and the others revealing the building’s insulation like “shadowboxes”.

“The timber bones of the building are exposed by stripping away all applied finishes – elevating structure to expression,” said Ingels.

“The building serves as a living curriculum, revealing all function, technology and structure as tangible elements for the students to appreciate and critique – learning solidified into built form.”

Inside, the building will feature exposed wood beams and panels, with a staircase that circles around the core. Around the staircase, at three points along its ascent, will be double-height spaces.

According to the studio, the core size was minimised by using a self-supporting, fire-resistant egress to expand the floor plates – the diagonal mass timber columns that make up the diagrid structure will aid in the load-bearing.

“A fire-resistant egress feature staircase spirals up the building, encouraging spontaneous moments of creative interaction and maximizing available floor space,” said the studio, adding “All interior materials are recyclable.”

BIG KU mass timber cube
A staircase will spiral throughout the building through double-height spaces

BIG will include photovoltaic panels on the roof and incorporate a rainwater-gathering system. The architecture studio will work with executive architect BNIM and structural engineer StructureCraft on the project.

BIG is also working on another mass-timber university building at John Hopkins in Maryland. The studio has also been working with 3D-printing construction company ICON to create a variety of projects in Texas.

The imagery is courtesy of BIG.

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