Timber in the City Symposium


What's Holding Timber Back? A Round Table Discussion
November, 17, 2016  |  New York, NY
Hosted by Parsons' School of Constructed Environments



What’s Holding Timber Back?
, a round table discussion at Parsons School of Constructed Environments, aims to advance the goal of complete acceptance of mass timber buildings in North America.

With two major mass timber professional competition-winning projects underway in the United States: Framework: An Urban + Rural Ecology in Portland, Oregon, and 475 West 18th in New York City, and numerous smaller projects at various stages of planning, this roundtable will explore factors currently confronting timber architecture, factors having mainly to do with lack of familiarity with timber and its performance, challenging the positive environmental and social intentions and conceptual vision of the architecture.

The presentations and discussion will be among architects currently engaged with timber projects, in dialog with engineers, developers, and insurers contributing their expertise to such projects. 

Live Stream

Can't make it to the event? Tune in on November 17th to live stream the symposium. LINK:

Symposium Details

Date: November 17th, 2016

Location: Parsons School of Design, The New School, NY
Bob and Sheila Hoerle Lecture Hall, 63 Fifth Avenue, UL105
Schedule: The symposium will begin with presentations, followed by a round table discussion.

6:00-7:30 PM |  Speakers:
Susan Jones, Founding Principal at atelierjones, Seattle
Thomas Robinson, Founding Principal at LEVER Architecture, Portland 

Amir Shahrokhi, Project Director at SHoP Architects, NYC 

7:30-8:30 PM | Joining the Roundtable: 
Moderator: Alan Bruton, Associate Professor, College of Architecture and Design, University of Houston
Tanya Luthi, Fast+Epp Engineers 
Jeff McLellan, BFL CANADA Insurance Services 
Jeff Spiritos, Spiritos Properties 

Timber in the City: Urban Habitat Competition Winners Exhibition 

Winners of the 2015-16 Timber in the City competition will be exhibited during the Symposium on November 17th, 2016. The competition is a partnership between the Binational Softwood Lumber Council (BSLC), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons The New School for Design (SCE). The purpose of the Competition is to engage students to imagine the repurposing of our existing cities with sustainable buildings from renewable resources, offering expedient affordable construction, innovating with new and old wooden materials, and designing healthy living and working environments.

Speaker Bios

Alan Bruton, Associate Professor, College of Architecture and Design, University of Houston
Alan Bruton is an architect and design educator currently on the faculty at the Gerald D Hines College of Architecture and Design the University of Houston, where he is director of the Bachelors of Science in Interior Architecture. Developing a symbolic tectonic language specific to the possibilities of Mass Timber is a research focus of his teaching practice, related to a larger interest in materiality and culture. Formerly at the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons, Alan developed the site approach and program for the 2016 Timber in the City, Urban Habitats Competition and selected and hosted it’s jury and the topics and participants of the Timber in the City, What’s Holding Timber Back? event. 

Susan Jones, Founding Principal at atelierjones, Seattle
Susan Jones, FAIA, founded the firm atelierjones in 2003 the firm seeks out sites, buildings and materials with inherent, but underutilized value—to harvest their embodied energy, their catalytic power for owners and communities, their beauty. Her work creates delight and wonder in leftover, dirty, forgotten places and spaces, and materials, creating new uses in innovative and beautiful ways. atelierjones has forged this cross-disciplinary approach through embracing methodologies mined from sustainability and materials research, from historic preservation and adaptive reuse movements, real estate development as well as community activism.

Tanya Luthi, Fast+Epp Engineers
Tanya is a licensed professional engineer and an associate at Fast + Epp structural engineers, a Vancouver-based firm known for innovative and architecturally expressive wood structures. She served as project lead on the Mountain Equipment Co-op head office building, one of the largest contemporary timber buildings in Canada. She now manages Fast + Epp’s New York City office. Before joining Fast + Epp in 2011, Tanya worked in New York for Leslie E. Robertson Associates. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics from Princeton University and a master’s degree in civil engineering from The University of Texas at Austin.

Jeff McLellan, BFL CANADA Insurance Services
Vice President, Professional Services, Architects & Engineers Practice Leader - Western RegionWith over 19 years’ experience in insurance and risk management, Mr. McLellan heads up BFL CANADA’s Architects & Engineers Division based in Vancouver, BC. He possesses extensive knowledge and experience in the area of professional liability having worked specifically with design professionals for most of his career. He has made presentations for several associations on the topic of Professional Liability Insurance and Design Related Risks. He is recognized as one of the top Canadian brokers in his field. Over the past 6 years he has worked closely with Woodworks and other professionals during the drive towards Tall Wood structures.  He was involved in arranging coverage for Brock Commons at the University of British Columbia which at 174 feet is currently the world’s tallest hybrid mass timber building.

Thomas Robinson,  Founding Principal at LEVER Architecture, Portland
Thomas Robinson is the Principal and Founder of Portland, Oregon based LEVER Architecture. He is a recognized design leader in the Northwest with a growing body of work that has been recognized nationally and internationally.  LEVER was part of the west coast team that was awarded a $1.5m grant as part of the USDA Tall Wood Building Competition, and LEVER’s design for the “Framework” high rise timber tower is on deck to be the tallest Cross Laminated Timber building in the United States.  LEVER also recently completed the first market rate office building in the US constructed with domestically fabricated Cross Laminated Timber (CLT).   The building “Albina Yard” will house LEVER’s new offices.

Amir Shahrokhi, Assoc. AIA, Project Director at SHoP Architects, New York 
Amir is a Project Director at SHoP Architects with over eight years of diverse architectural experience leading design teams on complex urban sites, large mixed-use projects, and innovative structures. He understands that inventive and meaningful work requires a particular ability to recognize and satisfy the goals of various stakeholders in order to create memorable spaces and experiences that impact the lives of those who inhabit them. He has worked at a variety of scales ranging from intimate galleries to multi-block urban developments involving multiple city and state agencies. Amir’s current and past experiences include: Gallery Met, at Lincoln Center's Metropolitan Opera; parcels of The King Abdullah Financial District, a mixed-use development in Riyadh; Empire Landing, an urban mixed-use complex situated over a rail yard on the New York Harbor; and the US Tall Wood Building Award-Winning project 475 W18, a 10-story luxury-residential condominium utilizing mass-timber. Amir holds a BArch from the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science

Jeff Spiritos, Spiritos Properties, LLC
Jeff Spiritos is a principal of Spiritos Properties, LLC, a commercial and residential development and development management organization. Founded in January 2004 by Jeff Spiritos, the company participates in ground- up projects in New York, both as principal and as service provider for property owners/developers seeking expertise to accomplish their development objectives. The Company’s focus is to create buildings of purpose while bringing quality architecture to life. Currently, the firm is immersed in the effort to bring tall timber buildings to the commercial and institutional real estate markets in New York City and beyond in the United States.


Image Credit: 
Honorable Mention: Swamp Machine
Students: Benjamin Ahearn, Kristin Karlsson, Carey Moran, University of Washington
Faculty: Richard Mohler, Elizabeth Golden, University of Washington