An artists impression of the planned 350-meter-high wooden skyscraper in Tokyo announced by the Sumitomo Forestry Company. Illustration: Sumitomo Forestry Company

Standing in the heart of Tokyo, it will be 70 stories tall and 1,148 feet, or 350 meters, high. It will also be a mixed development tower block with residential, retail and business spaces. And, of course, it will be made out of wood.

In a move to promote its 350th anniversary, the Sumitomo Forestry Company has announced plans to build by 2041 what The Guardian has dubbed a “Plyscraper.” The building will cost US$5.6 billion, nearly double the price of a traditional steel and glass structure.

“This is all about urban development that are kind for humans and making over cities as forests,” the company stated.

Renowned architecture firm Nikken Sekkei has been heavily involved in the design for the W350 Project as it is known.

Predominantly built from wood, hybrid materials and small quantities of steel will also be used in the spine of the building to cope with seismic activity.

Up to 6.5 million cubic feet of wood will be needed, which is roughly 300,000 family-sized kitchen tables from Ikea.

Green balconies will entwine the tower’s exterior, connecting the building to its environment.

“New technological advances with construction techniques and composite wood make this a very exciting area at the moment,” said Riccardo Tossani, who set up Riccardo Tossani Architecture in Tokyo more than 20 years ago.

“It is in many ways the ideal material because it is a renewable resource as well as being somewhat recyclable. For Japan, it is an excellent building material,” he added.

Historically, the majority of buildings in the country were constructed in timber but were deemed a fire risk after the country’s cities were gutted during the allies’ aerial bombing in World War II.

Oakwood Tower in London looks an exciting joint-project proposed by PLP Architecture and Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture. Illustration: PLP Architecture

But wood is now back in fashion and is being heavily used in the Kengo Kuma Stadium for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Naturally, it is not just in Japan where the material is taking root in the building industry.

During the past 10 years, there has been a global rush to construct or design timber towers.

At 142 feet, the Brock Commons Tallwood House at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver is believed to be the world’s tallest “plyscraper.”

The Treet in Norway’s Central Bergen is another classic “natural wood” block as is the 10-story, 104-foot high Forte residential building overlooking Melbourne’s Victoria Harbour.

“Projects like this demonstrate the far reaches of timber’s potential,” Anthony Thistleton-Smith, the founding director of Waugh Thistleton Architects in London, told The Architects Journal.

“We would hope that in a few decades, it will be possible to build a large structure predominantly in timber without having to load it up with concrete and steel,” he added.

Already those seeds are being sown as innovation blossoms.   

There are plans to build an 80-story River Beech Tower in Chicago out of wood, while the Oakwood Tower in London looks an exciting joint-project proposed by PLP Architecture and Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture.

If it gets the green light, it would stretch to 80 stories and would be 1,000 feet tall. It would also be the city’s first timber tower and would only be overshadowed by The Shard.

“There’s a whole bunch of new materials made out of wood that are structurally able to build big buildings,” Dr. Michael Ramage, of the Center for Natural Material Innovation at Cambridge Universit, told CNN.

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