Mass Timber Beacon Proposed for Glasgow COP26

The best thing about it is that you can pack it up and take it away.

monment design


Every big event needs a monument. For the 2012 Olympics, London got a permanent steel structure that was likened to "the Eiffel Tower after a nuclear attack" by The Guardian, which also described it as "a catastrophic collision between two cranes. A giant Mr. Messy."

Now, with the United Nation's delayed COP26 coming to Glasgow, Scotland this November, Alex de Rijke of dRMM Architects has proposed a "Timber Beacon" as "a response to the collective brief of a unique global timber industry collaboration." The project is led by CEI-Bois, the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries, and the United Kingdom's Timber Trade Federation.

It is a very different kind of monument than the ArcelorMittal Orbit rusting away at the Olympic site after being turned into a money-losing slide ride.

sketch of timber tower

Alex de Rijke/ dRMM

This monument is made of mass timber and is flat-packed into a single recycled 40-foot shipping container that becomes part of the exhibit where they show how mass timber is used. After the COP26 conference is over, it gets packed up into its shipping container and sent off to the next event that needs "a wayfinding object and storytelling device, showcasing timber’s ability to outperform other building materials in terms of carbon, strength, and beauty."

De Rijke explains:

"The installation’s physical impact is not only about materiality and apparent anti-gravity. The surprises of unexpected scale and fine precision are achieved in deploying CNC pre-manufactured elements, quickly assembled on site. The timber pavilion is designed to avoid any waste; easily dismantled and stored, re-erected, reconfigured, or ultimately recycled in future." 
Details of construction

Alex de Rijke/ dRMM

The message for a carbon zero future is clear: In wood there is hope.

As de Rijke explains in Architectese, that incomprehensible language they teach us in school:

"Inspired by the Cartesian geometry of Dutch C20 architect/ furniture maker Gerrit Rietveld, overlapping elements combine to form a super scaled ‘joint’ to explain the characteristics of different timber species and engineered products, and express their infinite potential. A telescopic composition of profiles projects from a central shipping container. The spatial impact of the installation belies the efficient compact kit. Each element fits within the container for storage and transport. The container doubles as the foundation and armature; a stabilising structure to keep the timber off the ground. The presence of the shipping container reminds the viewer of timbers ability to replace steel in many ways, but also of the questions of global infrastructure, standardisation and distribution that are critical in the global distribution of building materials."

According to the press release, the project is "shortlisted by the British Government to be located at the COP26 Glasgow site for the duration of the talks."

That didn't make much sense, but Paul Brannen, director of public affairs at CEI-Bois, explains to Treehugger what's happening: "As regard space at the COP in the green zone, there is 'competition' for space ie not everyone who wants space will get space. People want space for many reasons. You had to apply to HMG with a proposal and our Timber Beacon has been shortlisted. Confirmations mid-August as to who actually has space to 'exhibit.'"

COP26 opens on Nov. 1, running through Nov. 12. That doesn't leave a lot of time to find an open-top container—they are pretty rare—and cut up all that wood, but CNC machines are fast if they can source the wood and the box in time. And it is portable so they can always take it to COP27, whenever it is.

But we hope they pull it off; it is the right time and place for it. Brannen sums it up: “The global timber and global forest sectors see COP26 as the unmissable opportunity for policymakers to put into action what we already know about nature-based solutions; global forests and wood products are essential to averting catastrophic climate change, and increasing the use of timber products is an easy way to help decarbonize construction, renovation, and the wider built environment. Wood both stores carbon and substitutes for carbon intensive alternatives. We are also focused on globally recognized good governance as the key to growing forests around the world.”