Editor’s pickAmerican white oak glulam for London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground

AHEC,Lord's Cricket Ground

“This large-scale commercial application of white oak glulam should really open architects’ eyes to this alternative option for their structural materials portfolio…”

An engineering marvel made of American white oak features in the redevelopment of the Warner Stand at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. The primary structure of the roof is formed from 11 cantilever glue-laminated (glulam) beams, up to 23 metres long, the first time the species has been employed in this format on this scale.

Architects Populous wanted to create a building that had the impression of lightness—hence the canopy comprising fabric rather than glass, and the 13-metre cantilevered section that makes it seem to float over the crowd.

“We wanted to capture cricket’s summer character and the ambience of a local club marquee,” said Philip Johnson, senior principal and project lead at Populous.

The new four-storey stand has 2,656 seats with improved sightlines, a new match control suite and better facilities. Sustainability is also at the forefront of the design thinking, with solar thermal and photovoltaic roof panels to generate power. It replaces a 1950s structure and is part of an ongoing masterplan to improve visitor experience and boost the international reputation of Lord’s. The new building sits between the historic Grade II* listed Pavilion, designed by architect Thomas Verity and built in 1890, and the Grand Stand, designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and built in 1996.

Part of the brief was also to have its own visual identity, while sitting sympathetically alongside Lord’s other buildings.

“Lord’s comprises individual stand styles rather than one stadium design; it’s an architectural campus, described as ‘pavilions around a village green’, so we made design nods to the other stands, notably the tent-like fabric roof of the Mound Stand,” Johnson added.

Wood technicalities

American white oak came on the scene through discussions between Arup and the American Hardwood Export Council, which also provided technical advice and helped source the timber.

“The imagination of the architects, the inspiration of the engineers and the skill and tenacity of the fabricators have produced a landmark structure, which is a pivotal moment in the evolution of timber construction. This is also an exciting moment for us (AHEC), turning our vision of what might be possible structurally with our hardwoods, into a reality,” said David Venables, AHEC European Director.

The American white oak beams were manufactured by German timber specialist Hess Timber. Each beam measures 900mm x 350mm at the deepest point. The longest glulam beam weighs approximately four tonnes and measures 23.4 metres in length. The AHEC Grown in Seconds sustainability calculator showed that the 100m3 of American white oak lumber used to fabricate the beams would have taken 160 seconds to grow back in the American forest.

“An advantage of American white oak’s stiffness and uniformity was that we could predict deflection levels and camber very precisely,” said Markus Golinski, head of Sales, Hess Timber.

The beams also extend back using the same roof fabric, but double-skinned with a mid-layer of Aerogel insulation. “So we have the same translucency, but, combined with double glazing and renewables, including ground source heating, it enables the building to be used for hospitality year-round. Then on summer match days the wide windows can be thrown open, creating one space that engages spectators with the game,” said Johnson.

Lord’s new stand marks another milestone in American hardwoods’ difficult journey to get to this point in structural uses, but this project, Venables said, “should really open architects’ eyes to this alternative option for their structural materials portfolio at a time when they’re looking to build more with wood worldwide.”


Project Details

Client: Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC)

Location: London, United Kingdom

Completion: June 2017

Architects: Populous

Engineers: Arup

Engineered wood manufacturer: Hess Timber

White oak supplier: Robinson Lumber

Photography: Jon Cardwell

This article was first published in Wood in Architecture Issue 1/2018