Tower made from timber engineered to be self-forming 

The Urbach Tower is a unique timber construction. The striking form of the tower is the result of an innovative self-forming process for complex, curved components. This groundbreaking scientific development represents a paradigm shift in timber construction. Existing forming processes are very expensive and energy intensive, and require heavy pressing tools. But with the new self-forming method, the material curves by itself. This is attributable to the natural swelling and shrinking of timber under the influence of moisture.

The components for the 14-metre-high tower are laminated in their flat state. Once the moisture content changes during the usual industrial drying process, they take on the pre-calculated curved form by themselves. This creates new and unexpected architectural potential for the use of the sustainable, renewable and regionally available construction material that is timber.

The Urbach Tower is the world’s first structural application of a load-bearing timber construction in self-forming timber components. The attraction in the municipality of Urbach can be viewed during the 2019 Remstal Garden Show.

The research project was led by the ICD and IKTE institutes at the University of Stuttgart in collaboration with Switzerland’s ETH and Empa. Lehmann Holzwerk AG and Blumer-Lehmann AG were involved as industrial partners. This allowed the entire process chain to be implemented at our Gossau site, from cutting the logs in the sawmill and the drying process for the timber to final processing and preassembly of the structure. 

Project details

Client:
Gemeinde Urbach
Architecture:
ICD und ITKE Universität Stuttgart
Project type:
Art and culture
Construction type:
Free Form
Services:
Timber construction
Construction:
2019
Locality:
Urbach, Germany
View of the Urbach Tower with the village visible in the background

14.2-metre tower in spruce CLT

View of 3 people in the Urbach Tower in the evening sun

A larch facade surrounds the tower

Detailed view of the Urbach Tower showing the self-formed wooden structure from the exterior

The tower is made up of 12 individual components

View of the lower section of the Urbach Tower in the evening sun.

View of stunning scenery

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