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University of Arkansas by Grafton Architects

Grafton Architects unveils timber research centre for University of Arkansas

Dublin firm Grafton Architects has designed a timber research centre for the University of Arkansas' architecture school, which will mark its first project in the US when complete.

Grafton Architects, which is led by 2020 Pritzker Prize winners Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, and local firm Modus Studio have designed the building for the school's campus in Fayetteville.

The team was announced last week as the winners of a competition for the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation project, organised by the university's Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.

The design comprises a timber construction with a zig-zagging roofline that staggers down from approximately six stories at its highest height to one level in the rear.

A render shows the wood construction will be left exposed inside, with skylights bringing in daylight.

University of Arkansas by Grafton Architects

"The basic idea of this new Anthony Timberlands Center is that the building itself is a story book of timber," said Farrell. "We want people to experience the versatility of timber, both as the structural 'bones' and the enclosing 'skin' of this new building."

The university building will be used for timber and wood design initiatives within the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. It will serve as the home for a new graduate programme in timber and wood design, and house the school's design-build programme and fabrication technologies laboratories.

"The building itself is a teaching tool, displaying the strength, colour, grain, texture and beauty of the various timbers used," Farrel added.

Grafton Architects and Modus Studio's design was approved by the university's board of trustees after a committee and an external evaluation team selected the team ahead of six finalists.

The shortlist was chosen from 69 firms that entered the competition and included Copenhagen firm Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter and Tokyo firm Shigeru Ban Architects were among the shortlist.

"The selection of Grafton Architects, in partnership with Modus Studio, for the Anthony Timberlands Center project immediately magnifies the already immense significance of the Fay Jones School's current and future initiatives in the further development of timber and wood innovation for the state of Arkansas," said Peter MacKeith, dean of the architecture school.

University of Arkansas by Grafton Architects

"This building helps us think about the future optimistically, where the use of timber with all its possibilities, becomes real, useful and hopefully loved," Farrell and McNamara added.

Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation will be built along Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard in the south of Fayetteville. Once completed, it will be Grafton Architect's first building in the US.

Farrell and McNamara were announced as the 2020 laureates of the Pritzker Prize earlier this month. They are the fourth and fifth women to be named winners of the prestigious architecture award, following Zaha Hadid who was the winner in 2004; Kazuyo Sejima who won alongside Ryue Nishizawa in 2010, and Carme Pigem who won with Rafael Aranda and Ramón Vilalta in 2017.

MacKeith said the choice of the firm for the university building provides an important example of gender equality for students.

"As an accomplished, recognised women-led practice, Grafton Architects confirms for all our students that the design professions are equally theirs in which to find their identities and to realise their potentials," he said.

Other projects by Grafton Architects are a medical school at the University of Limerick and a facility for the Universita Luigi Bocconi, both of which are two of the key projects the studio highlighted in a Dezeen interview.

Images are by Grafton Architects.

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University of Arkansas by Grafton Architects
University of Arkansas by Grafton Architects