Thought experiment: What if the world’s greatest buildings were made out of wood? Imagine the Empire State Building rising above midtown Manhattan, like a giant tree, or the Colosseum presiding over Rome, with all the architectural majesty of a log cabin.
That’s the concept behind Finnish forestry company Metsä Wood’s “plan B” project, which aims to reimagine the world’s most iconic buildings as wooden structures. The point: To show that wood is a viable construction material for all sorts of buildings and in all sorts of contexts, whether an urban skyscraper or an ancient gladiator arena.
Of course, people at a wood company would say that. They want to sell more wood! But history is on Metsä Wood’s side, as architects increasingly turn to timber–which is gentler on the environment than many conventional construction materials–to design tall buildings. The past few years have seen the construction of wooden buildings up to 100 feet tall, setting records that will soon be broken by new projects under way that will reach as tall as 250 feet. That’s still peanuts compared with the Empire State Building, which rises a whopping 1,250 feet. But the way things are going, our glass-and-steel skylines may start to look decidedly more forest-like.