The Smile by Alison Brooks

Landmark Project

17 — 25 Sept 2016

Architecture / Landscape, Urban Design, Materials

Chelsea College of Art & Design

16 John Islip Street, London



Architect Alison Brooks’ Landmark Project was a spectacular urban pavilion that took the shape of a smile, in collaboration with AHEC and Arup.

Architect Alison Brooks’ Landmark Project could be described as an unidentified object: a 34m long, 3m high inverted arc poised on the urban horizon. Her project was also a spectacular urban pavilion that took the shape of a smile, its two ends designed as viewing platforms, which looked on to the sky and reached out to neighbouring buildings. Constructed entirely from tulipwood, The Smile created an immersive environment that integrated structure, surface, space and light. Its two swooping cantilevered arms appeared like a giant see-saw, yet the structure was balanced by the work of Arup - the project’s engineers, who constructed it from cross-laminated timber and by using high-performance hardwood. The structure was forward-looking; not only pushing the barriers of complex structures, but demonstrating that the 21st century is an era not of concrete but of timber. Brooks, the project architect, observed that ‘it looks like high-quality flooring, too good to be structural - and that’s kind of amazing’. For AHEC, The Smile was one of the most important developments in a decade of research into structural timber innovation with structural engineers. For Brooks, it was an opportunity ‘to stretch the material to the limit’. Supported by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and Arup, in partnership with the University of the Arts London. Further support by SEAM, Atrium Ltd and MCI Grupo.