Timber has been a perennially popular construction material for eons. Its incredible versatility means it’s suitable for a wealth of projects and has been used to create some awe-inspiring structures around the world.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest timber structures from across the globe and investigate just how these wooden behemoths came to be.
The Great Eastern Temple
A landmark of Japan’s Nara province, the Todaiji or Great Eastern Temple was built in the early 8th century. It houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha (the Daibutsu) and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site – standing as a shining example of period architecture.
Construction on the temple complex began in 743 AD and despite being stalled by earthquakes and several fires – was eventually completed in 751. The project was so ambitious that it nearly bankrupted the Japanese economy at the time, using up most of the country’s bronze reserves and requiring massive imports of gold.
Despite standing strong for centuries, the Todaiji has endured its fair share of setbacks and reconstruction, with the hall housing the Great Buddha having to be rebuilt twice and the statue’s enormous head falling off during an earthquake in 855. Using X-rays, archaeological expeditions have found jewels, pear’s, mirror swords and even a human tooth nestled inside the Daibutsu.
The hall stands at 57 metres long and 50 metres wide, giving it a place as one of the planet’s biggest wooden structures.
While not a building, one of the largest wooden structures ever put together by human hands was created at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Built to test the effects of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by a nuclear explosion on large aircraft, the ATLAS (Air Force Weapons Laboratory Transmission-Line Aircraft Simulator was made up of a 12-storey high, 1000-foot long structure.
Due to the type of research being conducted at the facility, nails and bolts could not be used – meaning the entire platform had to be painstakingly put together using glue, laminate and fibreglass pegs.
Despite the facility’s $60 million price tag, it was only operational for slightly over a decade and was steadily outpaced by increasingly cost-effective computer simulations. The fall of the Soviet Union also hastened its demise, with the project coming to a hurried end in 1991.
The Metropol Parasol
Located in La Encarnacion Square, Seville, Spain – the Metropol Parasol is the front-runner for the largest wooden structure currently standing in the world.
Designed to resemble a grove of trees, the structure consists of six mushroom-like parasols and was the brainchild of German architect Jurgen Mayer-Hermann. Supposedly inspired by the vaults of the Cathedral of Seville and the ficus trees that line the nearby Plaza de Cristo de Burgos, the Metropol Parasol houses panoramic terraces on its upper levels, where visitors can enjoy some spectacular views of Seville.
This historical site situated on Kizhi Island in north-west Russia stands as the worlds largest-standing structure built entirely from wood.
It consists of two churches, the Transfiguration Church and the Intercession Church, as well as a bell tower. Designed to attract Christians in the remote surrounding regions to come together and worship at a single location, the site was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1990.
Built to replace a former church that was lost to fire on the shore of Lake Onega, the Transfiguration Church boasts 22 lovingly-crafted domes, while its sister church has a modest six.
The structure stands as a monument to ingenuity in timber construction – with its scribe-fitted horizontal logs and corner joinery all cut using simple hand axes. Despite the builder’s names being unknown, the final altar was laid in 1714 and legend has it its primary builder threw his axe into the lake when it was completed – declaring that there would never be another that could match it.
The Tillamook Air Museum
Taking the title of largest clear-span wooden structure in the world, the Tillamook Air Museum is the site of a former military blimp hangar. Designed to house the massive aircraft in World War II – the main building stands at 1,072 feet tall and more than 296 feet wide.
Built in 1942 as one of 17 hangars designed to service the US Navy’s blimp feet, the site was eventually decommissioned, before reopening as a museum dedicated to aircraft of the Second World War
It currently houses a wealth of historic planes and helicopters, including a Cessna 180F Skywagon and a Grumman F-14A Tomcat.
Tillamook was listed by USA Today as one of the 10 Great Places to Remember World War II, with the publication stating:
“This original seven-acre, barrel-roofed wooden hangar now houses one of the country’s top private World War II aircraft collections. The chance to gape at the size of this building is worth the trip.”
Given the popularity of timber in construction, it’s no surprise that the world is flush with gargantuan wooden structures. If you’ve got any favourites you’d like to share, be sure to get in touch via Twitter – we always love to hear from you.
And if you’re looking to source quality timber for an upcoming project, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us directly today.
Images used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.