Home & Design

The lobby of The Wilson opens leads to a café, accessible below the stair.

Wall of Wood

A monumental, eco-friendly art installation animates a Bethesda lobby

Craftsmanship, creativity and sustainability meet in The Wilson, a recent high-rise addition to Bethesda’s cityscape. Designed by Shalom Baranes Associates, the 23-story office building at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue showcases a 32-by-51-foot, steel-and-wood wall installation in its lobby—a thought-provoking focal point that adds artistic dimension to the space.

The firm enlisted Gutierrez Studios to bring its concept to life. “We envisioned a giant library of raw materials assembled from various wood species remnants,” says Claudia Bancalari, an architect on the project. Gutierrez project manager Kevin Weston and his team devised a floating steel cleat system that supports 264 wooden fins, or volumes, ranging from four to 12 feet in height. The fins move independently within the structure so the wood can breathe, expand and contract seasonally.

Sustainability was a main driver of the project—so to craft its wood components, Gutierrez turned to Baltimore Fallen Lumber, which salvages timber instead of harvesting it. “We utilize downed timbers (termed Carbon Smart Wood), process them locally and plant trees in the community with the profits,” notes BFL’s Paul Timmons. He and his team relied on glued-together scrap and fallen-timber pieces in making the fins.

The finished installation comprises maple, sycamore, oak, elm, walnut, sapele and more. As Weston avers, “It’s a beautiful canvas of wood species.”

Architecture: Shalom Baranes Associates, Washington DC. Contractor: Clark Construction, Baltimore, Maryland. Feature Wall Fabrication & Installation: Gutierrez Studios, Baltimore, Maryland; Baltimore Fallen Lumber, Arbutus, Maryland.

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