American Tulipwood, or Liriodendron tulipifera of the Magnoliaceae family, is a fast-growing, abundantly available North American hardwood. Good forestry management policies mean that its growth constantly exceeds harvesting, making tulipwood one of the most sustainable hardwood species in the US. Although no longer a native of Europe since the last ice age, tulipwood is widely used in Europe for interiors and furniture but rarely by architects despite its exceptional versatility and competitive price.
David Adjaye, in collaboration with the AHEC, the American Hardwood Export Council, chose tulipwood for his Sclera outdoor pavilion for this year’s London Design Festival. Located just behind the Royal Festival Hall, the pavilion was open to the public from 13th September to 12th October 2008.
The 12x8 m elliptical construction is accessed by a circular entrance, placed on one side, that ushers visitors into a large circular hall communicating with the exterior.
Adjaye exploited one of the key characteristics of tulipwood - its extremely long sections - to create the pavilion’s wooden flooring of long strips set along the greatest length of the ellipse. The extensive stretch of single-piece floorboards accentuates the wood’s varying natural hues, inviting visitors to walk the full length of the pavilion. These regular flooring strips contrast with walls and ceiling designed to bring out the dynamic effect of light filtering onto wood surfaces.
The outside wall comprises 370 posts of different cross sections up to 4.50m long and spaced so as to allow light to filter into the interior and provide views onto the outside from within. The vibrant three-dimensional effect of the interior is achieved by 910 random module lengths of laminated tulipwood hanging from a ceiling frame of load-carrying joists resting on the perimeter walls.
To be able to use tulipwood outdoors, Adjaye availed himself of the technical know-how of the specialist wood conservation company, Osmose, which specified the weatherproofing treatments required. Osmose will be working in close collaboration with AHEC in coming months to widen the range of external uses for tulipwood and so develop the great potential of this prime American hardwood to the full.
American Hardwood Export Council
3 St Michael’s Alley
UK - London EC3V 9DS
Tel. +44 (0) 20 76264111 Fax +44 (0) 20 76264222