Bending a length of wood usually requires a mechanical process. But now the University of Stuttgart has developed a way for wood to adopt the required shape during its industrial drying process. Showcasing this is the 14 metre-tall Urbach Tower, produced for the Remstal Gartenschau exhibition. It comprises 12 components made from CLT panels that have shaped themselves. This is the first wooden structure to be developed in this way.
The process involves using the wood’s hygroscopic properties to shape it into the desired pattern. The 5 x 1.2 metre spruce CLT panels were produced as regular flat elements before the cross-lamination. The CLT panels comprise a specific layout of different parts that sees the individual laminates bend themselves to the designer’s will in the drying kiln. A computer simulator was developed to control the shaping of the wood elements during the process. After drying, the parts are glued together into curved and stable CLT elements.
To weatherproof the structure, the exterior has been clad in a thin layer of larch glulam. The façade has also been treated with titanium oxide to protect against UV rays and dry rot.