With the Coopered Column, Timothy Olson investigates a structural strategy for tall timber buildings premised on columns of expanded diameter. He formed the geometry for the column from a cone cut at an oblique angle, resulting in a bowl with one side significantly longer and taller than the other.
The column is similar in construction to a traditional coopered barrel with over 100 individual timbers as the staves and a series of steel bolts replacing the barrel hoops. Each timber was machine-cut and assembled on an inverted jib in British Columbia. Once all the pieces were fitted on the jib, the 3000 lb column was disassembled, shipped to Boston, and reassembled on the gallery floor.
SGH developed a nonlinear model to evaluate the circuitous load path of the column structure and to determine the required strength for the bolts that hold adjacent timbers together. We reviewed the structure and determined that the asymmetric structure would be prone to tipping. SGH developed a solution that included the placement of steel counterweights to adjust the center of gravity enough to make the structure more stable.