Annular Unstructured

Free Form Swallows Function

Swiss engineering turns engineered timber towards the future

Swiss timber engineering has built an enviable reputation for pushing the envelope of the possible. 

Annular Unstructured’s inaugural edition pursues Switzerland’s high end timber engineering, with features on engineer Hermann Blumer and architect Shigeru Ban, reports on Swiss made timber projects including, in the UK, Heatherwicks Maggies Centre Leeds and MarksBarfield Cambridge Mosque, Stuttgart’s ICD Urbach Tower and Stavanger’s Helen & Hard Finance Park, not to mention Lukas Imhof’s ash Ekkhartoff Community Centre.

Biel Wood School, AHB, the country’s leading timber engineering research hub is profiled, focusing in on its hardwood research over the last decade, which have spawned start-ups, Timbatec and TS3.0 and brought added extra heft to the emerging engineered hardwood materials manufacturers Fagus Suisse and neue Holzbau.And another of Switzerland’s league of engineers Jürg Conzett contributes a research essay on the country’s most famous engineering sons, the Grubenmann Brothers.

Hermann Blumer, Shigeru Ban and Blumer Lehmann: Interfacing Swiss-Japanese timber tech and tradition

Mr Techno-timber: Hermann Blumer, engineer-craftsman

Surrealism in the suburbs: Shigeru Ban’s Biel Swatch Campus

What Shigeru Ban and Herman Blumer did next after Metz: The Tamedia office HQ

Avant-timber manufacturer’s Blumer Lehmann: Free-form with a Swiss accent

A Swiss Made basket of timber projects: Britain and Norway

Maggie’s Inside Out: Heatherwicks’ Leeds cancer care centre weaves together nature and craft

Free-form timber calligraphy – the Cambridge Mosque of Marks Barfield

Timber’s Alpine Silicon Valley comes to Stavanger: Helen & Hard’s Finance Park

Fourth Door Further

The forest of engineered hardwood. From Biel Wood school and Swiss beech breakthroughs to an engineered ash highlight and moving beyond CLT.

Ashes to Beeches: Biel wood school and the forty year story of Swiss engineered hardwood’s emergence

Ash Gastronomy: Lukas Imhof’s engineered ash Ekkharthof Community Centre

Vorsprung Durch TimbatecStefan Zöllig, Timbatec and their TS3.0 start up

The Grubenmann Experience: Jürg Conzett, on the Grubenmann engineering dynasty


Jurg Conzett is a Swiss engineer working and living in Chur, Graubunden.

Helen Oertli is a freelance journalist, copywriter and communications expert. She writes on a wide range of topics – from astronomy to architecture. Timber construction is one of her favorite topics, because timber construction unites innovation and tradition, industry and craft, construction and beauty in a unique way.

All other articles are by Oliver Lowenstein from Fourth Door

This Unstructured wouldn’t have been possible without time, contributions and help of a wide number of people.

In Switzerland, these include Hermann Blumer, Katharina Lehmann, Lukas Imhoff, Jurg Conzett, Andrea Frangi, Frederic Pichelin, Rene Steiger and Olin Bartlome as well as Stavanger’s Helen & Hard office.

On the UK side I’d particularly like to thank Luke Rideout, Milly Manley, Sam Jenner, Kay Syrad and Nisha Vesuwala for your various forms of support and contributions over the last months.

Fourth Door would like to thank David Kilian-Beck at the Swiss Embassy and Fatuma Osman at the Swiss Culture Fund for supporting the Annular website project.

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