Timber Wave

AL_A together with Arup have designed an installation around the entrance to the V&A. The three-dimensional latticework spiral made of red oak is about taking the V&A out onto the street and celebrating the London Design Festival residency at the museum.

Repetition of motif is part of the didactic heritage of the V&A and this structure is born from that tradition. It creates its own balance and reflects the contemporary preoccupation with interconnectivity between disciplines.

Description from the architects


Award-winning architects AL_A and engineering firm Arup transform the V&A Museum’s Grand Entrance on Cromwell Road with the installation of a giant timber wave cascading down the steps. Built from oil-treated American red oak, Timber Wave is a three-dimensional latticework spiral, 12 metres in diameter, that employs construction techniques and materials normally used in furniture making to create a majestic three - storey - high structure.

‘The brief was to respond in some way to the entrance of the V&A. For us it was about making very explicit the London Design Festival residency there,’ says architect Amanda Levete of AL_A. ‘We wanted to take the V&A out onto the street.’

Timber Wave does exactly that, creating an outdoor installation that is not only graceful, but technically ingenious. Working with engineers and timber specialists from Arup, AL_A’s Timber Wave is a feat of precision construction.

‘We have taken thin hardwood lamination techniques more usually used in furniture making and applied them at a different scale,’ says Levete. ‘The timber entrance is three-dimensional and asymmetric in form, and each timber piece is precisely calibrated for optimal structural performance and sculptural elegance.’ It is the high strength-to weight ratio of American red oak, an abundant US hardwood resource, that allows AL_A and Arup to create this delicate design in such a large scale. The wood has been treated with a biocide oil treatment that gives red oak the necessary protection to be used outside.

The recurring structures within Timber Wave reflect the repeated motif style that is very much part of the didactic tradition of the V&A’s own historic facade. The Grand
Entrance in particular is vast, multilayered and very ornamental, and the design responds to this with a single dynamic form.

AL_A, winner of the V&A’s recent international competition to design a new courtyard and underground extension, is the international design and architecture studio of Stirling Prize-winning architect Amanda Levete, a former partner of Future Systems, the practice widely regarded as ‘laying down the agenda for architecture in the 21st century’. Future Systems achieved acclaim for seminal designs such as the Selfridges department store in Birmingham and the media centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground — the world’s first aluminium building. Amanda Levete is the V&A’s architect of the moment. Whilst gearing up to build the new galleries at the V&A’s Exhibition Road entrance, AL_A also present Timber Wave – an exciting and dramatic installation for Cromwell Road, bringing the London Design Festival’s residency at the museum out onto the street in glorious celebration of the Festival.

Description from London Design Festival 2011 - http://www.londondesignfestival.com/project/ldf-va


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