Mass Timber Studio

Wood, one of the oldest building material, is reemerging as a sustainable alternative to concrete and steel due to its light environmental footprint. Compared to other building materials, wood does not involve extreme heat and substances that release greenhouse gas. In fact, a living tree sequesters a significant amount of carbon, and over 50% of its biomass is made of carbon. When a building is constructed using wood, that building is effectively storing carbon rather than releasing it to the atmosphere. Wood also has a plethora of superior qualities. It is lightweight, easy to work with, warm to sight and touch, rich in color and texture, and healthy for the occupants. Properly detailed and finished, wood is proven to be durable (there are 10,000-year-old wood structures surviving to this day), robust, versatile, and above all- ages gracefully.

Mass timber construction is a category of framing style typically characterized using large solid wood panels for wall, floor, and roof construction. As an engineered composite wood system combining multiple pieces of wood, mass timber components can be constructed into a variety of shapes and sizes. This attribute allows mass timber used for both post-and-beam construction (i.e., like steel framing) and mass construction (i.e., like concrete). With the increased availability of large engineered wood members including glue-laminated-timber (glulam), cross-laminated-timber (CLT), and laminated-veneer-lumber (LVL); architects are increasingly implementing mass timber construction in large-scale structures even for high-rise buildings.
In this context, the re:THINK WOOD studio focuses on developing a mixed-use high-rise building in the heart of downtown Syracuse – using mass timber as the primary material. As the integrated building design studio (4th-year BArch), the students were asked to develop their projects advanced enough to conceptualize structure, building envelope, environmental systems, and details as a furtherance of architectural intentions. Throughout the semester students received inputs from structural, MEP, specification, energy consultants through workshops, lectures, and review sessions.


  • During the research phase (3 weeks), the students conducted case studies on mass timber buildings and collectively performed a comprehensive site analysis. The mass timber assembly details from the case study were analyzed, documented and presented; and the subtopics of the site analysis including urban analysis, circulation, zoning, code, environment, land-use, and local timber industry among others were shared with the entire studio. The design phase (11 weeks) was conducted through a rigorous process of iterative design. Each week, the students focused on a different set of drawings and models sequentially – (1) conceptual section & programming diagram; (2) ground level site plan & physical massing model; (3) elevations & key plans; (4) interior & exterior perspectives; (5) physical section model. This sequence was iterated three times until the final review. The intention was to use each “curated” set of drawings or models as a medium to explore specific areas of design. Therefore, each deliverable was intentionally treated as discrete entities. The integration of the discrete ideas, solutions, and representation from each set of drawings and models gradually, and naturally occurred through the iterations.


  • ARC 409 is a required course in the studio design sequence that addresses design comprehensively; the order of spatial, tectonic, and climatic systems as essential to architectural culture and design processes.


  • Spring 2020: Studio Professor
  • Spring 2018: Studio Professor and Co-coordinator
  • (with Professor Elizabeth Kamell)


  • 2020
  • 1st Prize, King & King Awards for Integrated Design
  • Vasundhra Aggarwal, Raj Periwal & Xingyao Wang, B.Arch ‘21
  • 2018
  • 1st Prize, King & King Awards for Integrated Design
  • Arezo Hakemy & Irving Shen, B.Arch ‘20
  • Honorable Mention, King & King Awards
  • Ethan Russell-Benoit & Omar Khalifa, B.Arch ‘20
  • Semifinalist, CTBUH International Student Tall Building Design Competition, Irving Shen & Arezo Hakemy, B.Arch ‘20
  • (Role: Faculty Sponsor)