Judges’ Pick: Cross Laminated Table

MIZA Architects, Vancouver

Photography by Warren Scheske

This table takes its name from its material, cross-laminated timber (CLT), a panel made of multiple layers of solid-sawn dimension lumber glued together. Adjacent board layers are crossed or stacked in perpendicular orientation, which adds strength. MIZA Architects’s goal was to make the tabletop appear as thin as structurally possible. Their first thought was simply to attach a set of off-the-shelf legs to a CLT panel because, they say, “CLT is visually interesting on its own: The panel faces appear like parallel butt-jointed boards and its edges display alternating layers of parallel grain and end grain. However, we felt a table constructed of a singular material was a more conceptually rigorous approach and would achieve the monolithic expression we desired.”

After several design iterations, they settled on a 3’x6’ tabletop with tapered legs cut from the same 1½”-thick CLT panel. The fabrication process began by splitting and planning 2×10 Douglas fir lumber to achieve a consistent half-inch thickness, then aligned and edge-gluing the boards to create the lamination layers. These were then stacked perpendicularly, glued, and compressed in a hydraulic press.

The weight of the top caused concern that the legs were too delicate. Adding steel reinforcements was an obvious but undesirable solution because it would introduce a second material. The solution was to increase the cross-sectional area of the leg at the connection, improving its moment of resistance and making a stronger biscuit joint. The joint’s complexity is concealed; the finished surfaces blend seamlessly once sanded and filled. The bevel edges of the top and legs seem paper-thin when viewed from some angles. The bevel cut also exaggerates the alternating grain pattern along the top edges and the legs. The result is an elegant, materially rigorous and surprisingly slim table that showcases exquisite joinery.

“As someone who builds with my hands, I gravitated towards this table. I appreciate the technology and craft aspects, and the use of waste lumber. We were informed of the numerous rounds of experimentation that went into making the legs sturdy enough to support the weight of the tabletop in a piece that is stable, handsome, clean. Simple-looking design takes much work. This is a shining example.”

  • Lisa Santana, co-founder, UnitFive Design

 “The Cross Laminated Table is materially ambitious, yet spare. The submission demonstrated a commitment to testing and fabrication, combined with a contemporary design sensibility.”

  • Deborah Wang, artistic director, DesignTO