Friday, November 12, 2010

Plywood Research Laboratory

Ron Thom's Plywood Research Laboratory is to be demolished, replaced by–surprise–townhouses.

Built in 1962, the laboratory's most distinctive feature is its faceted stressed-skin roof. The structure underlying the roof system is a dynamic arrangement of two-hinge glulam arch ribs, meaning there are no typical support features like beams or posts.

The roof consists of trapezoid and triangular fir plywood panels which further strengthen the structural support. The plywood is covered with a fibreglass 'skin'. The design allows a large free and open workspace and is strong enough to support three separate crane systems (one in the centre and two on the sides), each capable of moving 1 tonne of weight.

The drainage system from the roof is also unique, with water funneling down the facets onto concrete buttresses that act as structural support with channels for runoff.

The building was Canply's plywood research laboratory for over 40 years, but has been increasing encroached upon by low-scale residential development. Given Thom's prominence, the building was considered for heritage designation, a move that was not supported by Canply.

That designation never went through and this modest but significant piece of North Vancouver's architectural heritage will fall this week.

Testing laboratory interior.

Roof detail with translucent skylights.

Testing laboratory showing materials and cranes.

Roof detail, with yellow and green cranes in foreground.

Plan of exterior.

Detail plan of two-hinge glulam arch ribs.

Rendering of building front entrance.

V-shaped roof section leading to concrete buttress and drainage channel.

Detail of concrete buttress.

Front entrance.

North side of building with mature native west coast landscaping.

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