HawkinsBrown's Cube is made from cross-laminated timber
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Hawkins\Brown pairs cross-laminated timber and steel for record-breaking apartment block

Hawkins\Brown has completed a 33-metre-high apartment block in London's Shoreditch, which the studio claims is "the tallest building to use structural cross-laminated timber in Europe" (+ slideshow).

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

Named The Cube, the 10-storey residential building was constructed using a hybrid structure that is primarily cross-laminated timber (CLT), but also integrates steel elements and a reinforced-concrete core.

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

London studio Hawkins/Brown believes it is the tallest example of its kind on the continent, and demonstrates the opportunities for using hybrid construction to make high-rise buildings more sustainable.

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

"The Cube breaks new ground and demonstrates the great potential of cross-laminated timber as a material that enables rapid construction with a reduced environmental impact," explained practice associate Alex Smith.

CLT is an engineered wood formed by glueing together several layers of lumber at right angles to each other, making it much stronger and more rigid than normal wood. Other examples of its use in architecture include OOPEAA's Finlandia Prize-winning Puukuokka apartment block in Finland.

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

By combining this material with steel members, the architects were able to create a more complicated structure featuring numerous cantilevered overhangs.

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

The system was developed by timber and steel specialist B+K Structures. Both the CLT panels and the steel frame were manufactured offsite, then combined during construction.

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

The Cube is located beside the Wenlock Canal basin. With a total floor area of 6,750 square metres, it accommodates 50 apartments – between four and six per floor.

To offer residents views up and down the canal basin, or across the park to the east, Hawkins\Brown developed a twisted cruciform plan that gives all of the apartments three external walls.

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

"The cruciform layout of the development is an important factor in the quality of the apartments – homes with three external walls have great access to natural light and can be properly cross-ventilated, making them more comfortable during hot weather," said Smith.

"It also creates wonderful views, which we have maximised by ensuring each apartment has a decent-sized balcony or terrace."

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

This arrangement also forms courtyards at the four corners of the plot – something the design team describe as turning the traditional inward-looking courtyard block on its head.

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

Externally the block is clad in two materials; a black brick screen wall creates a visual affinity with the neighbouring buildings of the surrounding conservation area, while other sections are covered in slatted western-red cedar.

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

The project was completed for London property developer Regal Homes, and also includes approximately 1,200 square metres of commercial space on the ground floor.

"The Cube was created to be a pioneer of architectural possibilities, pushing the boundaries of residential construction and developing homes that are also works of art," said CEO Simon de Friend.

The Cube by Hawkins\Brown

"Arguably the 'unbuildable building', our in-house construction arm has broken new ground with this project and we will look to building on this legacy with further CLT developments in the imminent future."

For job opportunities at Hawkins\Brown, visit their company profile on Dezeen Jobs.

Photography is by Jack Hobhouse.


Project credits:

Architect: Hawkins\Brown
Planning consultant: Signet Planning
Structural engineer: Pringuer James Consulting Engineers
Services engineer: Spencer Mayes
Main contractor: Regal Homes
CLT/steel subcontractor: B+K Structures
CLT engineer: Engenuiti
Sustainability consultant: JS Lewis Ltd
Transport consultant: i-Transport