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University of Arkansas now home to America’s largest mass timber building

SOURCE: Leers Weinzapfel Associates
The Adohi Hall, a sustainable student centre, is the US's largest mass timber building.

America’s largest mass timber building has officially opened at the University of Arkansas, an architectural marvel set to inspire the future of sustainable building design.

The US$79 million wooded beauty is the masterpiece of a design collaborative comprising industry-leading firms such as Modus Studio, Mackey Mitchell Architects and OLIN, and led by the Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates.

Aptly named Adohi Hall, the Cherokee word for “woods”, the 708-bed student living and learning complex spans 202,027-square-feet and spreads across a series of interconnected structures made out of responsibly-sourced cross-laminated timber.

Located on the campus’s hilly end of Fayetteville, the hall consists of classrooms, a community kitchen, lounges, a rooftop terrace, and more. 

The structure design revolves around the concept of “a cabin in the woods” that provides a rustic natural vibe along each sustainably-built crevice. 

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The Adohi Hall was built for undergraduates but is also targeted for architecture, design, and art students and provides ample aesthetic facilities and open spaces for this purpose. 

The four-storey facility is scattered with communal areas to encourage student collaborative activities as well as workshops, or maker spaces, that provide students with the opportunity to rehearse or host performances, record music, or participate in a variety of other events. 

The multi-talented design team integrated various elements to enhance the natural charm of the structure as well as the surrounding landscape which showcases Northwest Arkansas’s native ecology. 

mass timber
Students will enjoy a variety of recreational spaces closer to nature. Source: Jens Johnsson.

Exposed timber columns, ceilings, and trusses generate a rustic warmth within the structure and will remind residents and visitors of the building’s groundbreaking construction. 

The structure’s design also makes ample room for natural light to shine in through floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the cabin area which also provides a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. 

Meanwhile, the cabin’s exterior gives off a minimalist feel, toning down on the wood accents in favour of zinc-toned panelling with copper and white accents. 

“We drew inspiration from the regional context of the Ozarks, creating a living/learning environment powerful enough to be a destination remote from the center of campus…and the wood-based construction system we developed forges a bond between setting, human comfort, and sustainability,” said Leers Weinzapfel principal Andrea P. Leers according to a report by The Architect’s Newspaper

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The Adohi Hall was named in honour of the Native American tribe members who passed by the site on the Trail of Tears. Adohi means woods in the indigenous Cherokee language. 

The inception of this major timber project was due to the region’s notable history as a heavily forested area. 

Considering the University of Arkansas’s long-standing commitment to research and teaching wood-based construction, it only makes sense to pursue such an ambitious sustainable construction and design project here. 

Structural components for the Adohi Hall are made up from responsibly-sourced European spruce, pine, and fir while cypress was selected to outfit the cabin’s interior. 

The growth of the mass timber manufacturing sector in Arkansas is likely to spur similar construction projects across other Southern institutions as well.