Timber tower as artwork for Milton Keynes Gallery
: Milton Keynes, UK
: Collaboration, Digital Manufacturing, Engineered Timber, Sustainability Exemplars
Milton Keynes Gallery (MK-G) invited us to design a temporary artwork to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the city of Milton Keynes.
Our response was a tower that would allow visitors to discover unique views across the buildings and trees, offering a conceptual contrast with the predominantly horizontal city.
We were also keen to use the structure as a chance to test the possibilities of cross-laminated timber. To this end, the tower uses different types of staircase to prove the equivalent of a seven-storey timber building core.
The result is a freestanding structure prefabricated in sections made of 162mm-thick cross-laminated timber that required no foundation and was therefore possible to erect in less than seven days. No glue was used in its construction, only screws.
At the topmost level, a platform at a height of almost twenty metres offered panoramic views of the city and the landscape beyond.
At the base of the tower stood a temporary coffee bar. In searching for maximum efficiency in energy and materials, we created the coffee bar from the shipping container in which the timber elements of the tower were stored. The interior of the coffee bar was lined with the work of artist Richard Woods, and giant window opening shapes from the top of the tower – ‘M’ ‘K’ ‘4’ and ‘0’ – were used as furniture for the public square.
At the end of the project, the container was used to store and transport the tower, ready for reuse on other sites.
No glues, just screws Cross laminated timber construction 
The fast construction process and unusual form, dominating the square in front of MK-G, attracted a great deal of local interest, with thousands of people climbing the 101 wooden steps to get a view out over Milton Keynes.
In common with dRMM’s other cultural works (such as Endless Stair or The Future is Here exhibition) MK40 Tower can be seen as ‘useful art’, actively engaging with the public and furthering the possibilities of structural design.
An accompanying exhibition documented our realised projects and research in engineered timber construction techniques, spreading the word about the benefits of building in timber.