Project Title: Timber Wave
Client: American Hardwood Export Council, London Design Festival
Location: Temporary installation for the London Design Festival 2011
Structural Engineer: Arup
Manufacturer & Builder: Cowley Timberwork
Wood Supplier: Cowley Timberwork
Red oak lumber kindly donated by American Hardwood Export Council Members:
- Bingaman and Son Lumber
- Fitzpatrick & Weller Inc
- Frank Miller Lumber Company
- Pike Lumber Company
- Coulee Region Hardwoods
- Northland Forest Products
- Matson Lumber Company
- Hermitage Hardwood Lumber Sales
Other associated companies: SEAM Design fittings by iGuzzini
Lighting Scheme: PEI Delta
Electrical Installation: Skanska
Wood Species & Products Used: American red oak
Designed by AL_A with engineers Arup, Timber Wave was installed at the grand entrance of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, 17 September–15 October for the London Design Festival 2011. The most ambitious commission of the festival to date, this remarkable 12 metre-high installation showcased the interest in design and making that is at the heart of the V&A’s collections and London’s creative industries.
Timber Wave was about taking the V&A out onto the street, celebrating the London Design Festival residency at the museum and the use of American red oak as a material. The V&A’s Cromwell Road entrance is vast, multilayered and very ornamental. The form responded to this with a single dynamic gesture in timber; the use of wood as a structural material is well documented at the V&A. Lamination techniques more usually used in furniture-making were applied at a vast scale to create a structure that echoed the grand proportions of the museum’s magnificent arched entrance.
Repetition of motif is very much part of the decorative and didactic tradition of the V&A, and this structure was born from that. Three-dimensional and asymmetric in form, it created its own balance and was visible from long views as you approached the museum from along Cromwell Road.
Timber Wave’s complex and challenging form is made possible through cutting-edge digital tools, 3D modelling and precision engineering. Using methods of fabrication not usually seen at this scale, each timber piece was precisely calibrated for optimal performance utilising American red oak’s inherent structural strength — twice that of comparative softwoods — to create a self-supporting structure in front of the Grade I-listed building.
Taller than a three-storey building, Timber Wave was made from curved pieces of American red oak donated by American Hardwood Export Council members and fabricated by Cowley Timberwork in Lincolnshire. Specially designed lighting by SEAM Design and iGuzzini emphasised the intricate patterns and ensured that it was as exciting to view at night as during the day.