Olson Kundig Architects based Design Miami lounge on historic lumber yards

Marcus Fairs: Will they chop them up? “Just like we had the chance to do what we wanted with them, the next designers will as well,” said Maskin. It’s up to the designers. As far as the fabrication goes, it was a very spontaneous project in the way that we worked with Olson Kundig. It’s doing a lot of structural work to hold them together. So they were literally brought out here. Design Miami 2014: Seattle studio Olson Kundig Architects used stacks of timber beams to form the collector’s lounge at this year’s Design Miami fair (+ interview + slideshow). Just like we had the chance to do what we wanted with them, the next designers will as well. “That really was the character that we tried to maintain.”
The amount, weight and lengths of the beams used were all constrained by what could fit onto the back of the lorry used to transport them to British Columbia and then to Miami Beach. So we created a stacking concept where we wanted to come down and stack pieces of wood here. But we also wanted this place to be transparent, and I believe it’s the first time the collectors lounge actually has this level of transparency where things can flow out and people can flow in. But all of the beams are made out of Douglas fir forest and they were milled in a lumber yard in Oregon. And we were really intrigued the way that, a hundred years ago, they would literally stack wood several stories high. We collaborated with him a lot. Alan Maskin: In some key areas, like in the corner back there, if you look very carefully, you can see one steel beam on that cantilever piece. Alan Maskin: This one is not going to blow away in the wind. The reason the project is called 38 Beams is because we could only fit thirty-eight thirty-foot-long beams on a truck. So I think there’s a really interesting tension that exists between these two dualities. Marcus Fairs: Are they just resting on each other, or is there any kind of steelwork? The beams will have yet another life, so they’re going to use them there too. Basically we said: “We need to find some material to build this pavilion.” Three months ago, this commercial office building in Los Angeles was being demolished, so we were able to get these beams from that building. And we also experimented there with prototypes of how to stack them and how much we could cantilever, where we might need some structure and so on. After the exhibition finished on Sunday, the beams were dismantled to be sent to the University of Kansas, where a group of architecture students will reuse them for their own projects. This created horizontal gaps within each of the walls, with extra blocks of wood added in the holes to maintain the separations. Then we had to find the wood that we were going to use. Marcus Fairs: These kinds of lounges are usually quite insubstantial, but this one is not going to blow away in the wind, is it? One of the things that’s really important about Spearhead is that we work really closely with the fabricators. They weigh exactly the maximum amount you can fit on a fully loaded semi truck, so it’s probably around 70,000 pounds (32 tonnes). Also, we wanted to do something here that was different, because I think that what happened to the Northwest design-wise is different to what happens in Miami design-wise. And that, for us, is really interesting. Alan Maskin: We’re from the Pacific Northwest, and Seattle and Miami could not be further apart in terms of the United States – they’re three thousand miles apart. This became a collection of mid-century timber beams. Alan Maskin: They have been. Marcus Fairs: They’ve been on a real road trip then. Architecture students there have a studio there called Studio 804 – a design and build studio. Olson Kundig Architects wanted to bring the forests of Seattle to Miami’s tropical setting, so stacked 30-metre-long lengths of timber to form a space for a bar, seating and meetings for VIP visitors to Design Miami last week. Marcus Fairs: Tell me about the fabrication. Alan Maskin: This was an eight-week project. So that became our resource. Marcus Fairs: How did you stack them? Alan Maskin: You know what? And it will continue because they’re going to the University of Kansas where the students will work on them next. “But we also wanted this place to be transparent, and I believe it’s the first time the collectors lounge actually has this level of transparency where things can flow out and people can flow in.”
Most of the structure – weighing approximately 32 tonnes – was supported purely by the timber beams, while steel sections helped to reinforce longer cantilevers. Ted Hall: Well-travelled beams! Once they arrived at the Design Miami tent, the heavy pieces of wood were stacked up using a forklift so the ends balanced on top of each other. We stacked the beams in place, we bought a number of different artists from the Pacific Northwest to help us in the design of the project, and then, when we’re finished, all of these beams are actually going to the University of Kansas. Not by hand, presumably? So it was really condensed in that regard. What is the idea? So it was interesting that they’ve had an interesting life, these trees.

Updated: 12.12.2014 — 08:42