Already renowned for its College of Forestry, Oregon State University celebrated a major expansion of the program in 2020. Two new buildings — both designed by Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture — have substantially increased the college’s educational spaces and research-driven programs respectively, while celebrating the spatial and technological promises of mass timber design.
The larger of the two buildings is the George W. Peavy Forest Science Center, a 7,700-square-metre educational hub that dramatically expands the College of Forestry’s learning spaces. Attached to an existing campus building (Richardson Hall), the three-storey complex introduces 20 new classrooms, as well as a laboratories, computer rooms and a range of more informal, sociably oriented learning spaces.
It’s also a showpiece of wood design. At the heart of the building, a generous atrium is wrapped by two-storey Douglas fir columns, with the sunlit space overlooking the college’s adjoining arboretum.
Designed to underscore a material connection to nature and outdoor learning, the double-height atrium also fosters intuitive way-finding through the complex, acting as a central spine of circulation and a natural gathering space.
For mass timber pioneers Michael Green Architecture (a subsidiary of modular prefabrication and timber construction company Katerra), the complex represents another technical milestone, with the building demonstrating the first Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) rocking wall in North America. The structure is designed to stand up to the region’s seismic requirements, thanks to a rocking wall of individual wood elements that are vertically connected by a post-tension system. The CLT shear walls can thus move and “self-centre” during seismic activity, with the interlocking system allowing components to be selectively replaced on an as-needed basis in the event of localized damage.
“The mandate of the new building is to itself be a teacher,” notes Michael Green Architecture, “something to interact with and to learn from – and to showcase innovations in forestry and ecosystem design.”
Almost immediately to the south, the school’s smaller A.A. “Red” Emmerson Advanced Wood Products Laboratory showcases another elegant — albeit more modest — timber design. Constructed with a spine of glulam and Mass-Produced Plywood (MPP), the 1,760-square-metre building houses both a testing bay for structural timber products and a manufacturing facility outfitted with advanced robotic equipment. And in the evening hours, it lights up like a wooden beacon on the edge of the forest.
Michael Green Architecture has completed a pair of innovative mass timber buildings for Oregon State University’s College of Forestry.