Following a lengthy design review process, Irish architecture firm Grafton Architects was chosen by the University of Arkansas’ Board of Trustees to design the institution’s new Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The firm, which was also awarded this year’s Pritzker Prize earlier this month, won out against five other big-name practices, including Dorte Mandrup A/S, Shigeru Ban Architects, LEVER Architecture, Kennedy & Violich Architecture, and WT/GO Architecture. “This is fantastic news,” said Farrell and McNamara of Grafton Architects in a press statement. “We are very excited about building our first building in the United States in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This building helps us think about the future optimistically, where the use of timber with all its possibilities, becomes real, useful and hopefully loved.”
The $16 million facility, in partnership with the local modus studio, will become the Fay Jones School of Architecture’s design research center and will be built with a major emphasis on timber, a building material that has become increasingly popular in the past few years in North America for its structural properties and ability to sequester carbon. The department’s brand new graduate program in timber and wood design will be housed in the new building, along with existing and forthcoming design-build fabrication technologies laboratories.
“We want people to experience the versatility of timber, both as the structural ‘bones’ and the enclosing ‘skin’ of this new building,” said Farrell. “The building itself is a teaching tool, displaying the strength, color, grain, texture and beauty of the various timbers used.” Like most other projects designed by the firm, the building will have a civic quality with plenty of natural light throughout its interior spaces that, in turn, makes the innovative research visible to passersby. The board of trustees was impressed with Grafton Architect’s demonstration of timber’s potential, noting that their proposal “creates a memorable institutional landmark for the urban landscape of Fayetteville.”
Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School of Architecture, added that “this selection, in short, is a landmark day for our school, our university and our state […] As an accomplished, recognized 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 realize their potentials.”
The project was funded in large part by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, both of which see great potential in the timber building industry. “The University of Arkansas has been a leader in showcasing all the benefits of mass timber architecture,” said Carlton Owen, CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities., in a press statement “We are looking forward to the results of a leading architectural university working with this year’s Pritzker Prize winners to take wood-based architecture to new heights.”
The comprehensive design phase for the Anthony Timberlands Center is scheduled to begin this summer.