Currently on display at the Chelsea College of Art and Design as part of this year’s London Design Festival, The Smile is an impressive 34-meter long by 3.5-meter high (111.5 feet by 11.5 feet) rectangular tube that looks like a huge Chesire cat grin. It was created by Alison Brooks Architects in collaboration with Arup. Viewers are encouraged to wander through the hollowed interior and then walk up either of the two ramps which lead to open apertures with views of the sky.
What makes this structure so unique is that it’s the most complex structure ever to be made out of cross-laminated timber (CLT). As CNN states, “The Smile is an experimental building — part pavilion, part sculpture — designed to showcase the structural and spatial potential of a material that could transform the way architects and engineers approach timber construction.”
In essence, The Smile represents one of the most important developments in a decade of research into structural timber innovation.
Steel and concrete have been used as structural materials in buildings for centuries, the construction of this structure makes it a possibility that buildings could, one day, also be completely fabricated out of wood. CLT lends itself to prefabrication, it can be cut precisely in a factory and is easily assembled on site.
If you’re in London, you can see The Smile through October 12th.