The building faces Sapporo Odori Park (exterior viewed from the northeast).

The Royal Park Canvas Hotel Pushes the Limits of Mass Timber

Mitsubishi Jisho Design has introduced a hybrid concrete and timber hotel to downtown Hokkaido.

Japan has a near millennium-long tradition of carpentry, with an emphasis on woodworking joints that require precise tolerances. So perhaps it is no surprise that the country has developed a robust mass timber design scene, with the likes of Shigeru Ban Architects imprinting that tradition across the globe. Mitsubishi Jisho Design, a full-service architecture and engineering firm, is also leading the way in this typology. The firm’s Royal Park Canvas Sapporo Odori Park, a hotel in Hokkaido that wrapped up in August 2021, is a concrete-and-timber hybrid tower that joins the downtown area with a facade and an interior clad with wood.

Japan is located within a high seismic activity region, and, as a result, has rigorous building standards pertaining to earthquake and fire safety; the country has only recently begun permitting the use of mass timber for high rise projects. “Building standards have recently been eased, and the Building Standard Law now allows mid- and high-rise wooden buildings if the timber frame is covered with fire-resistant gypsum board,” notes project architect Yuma Ogata. “By adopting this approach, we were able to construct a hybrid timber high-rise hotel.”

Night view of the north and east sides.
Night view of the lower levels on the north side, with wood interiors visible from Odori Park.

The approximately 150-foot tower consists of a reinforced concrete frame extending from the basement level to the eighth floor, and the team utilized a stay-in-place concrete formwork for the guest rooms to reduce construction waste. The top three stories of the tower are composed of cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor plates and bearing walls and glulam beams. Bearing walls for the timber structural system measure approximately 7 by 13 feet, with widths ranging from six to seven inches. Their tensile force is transferred to the concrete structural system with tie downs. For the perpendicular elements, a series of transverse connection fittings serve to prevent over compression.

One of the primary selling points of mass timber is its sustainability credentials, and the Royal Park is no exception to that rule. “Because this project had the dual goals of environmental sustainability and regional revitalization, we decided to construct the hotel using timber grown in Hokkaido, aiming to promote healthy cycles of forest regeneration while also invigorating the local timber industry,” says Ogata. “That significantly reduced CO2 emissions related to transportation.”

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The sloped Hokkaido-wood ceiling with rounded edges is a prominent feature of the combined reception area and bar/lounge, which is open to the public.

While the bulk of the structure is composed of reinforced concrete, the design team thoughtfully incorporated timber elements throughout the project. The facade incorporates heat-treated vertical koshi louvers, which are a typical feature of machiya, a type of traditional, wooden townhouse located throughout Japan. At the ground floor, the team opted for carbonized cork exterior wall panels. Inside, CLT panel remnants were recycled for use as guest-room furnishings, such as benches and speakers.

The second-floor lounge and rooftop of the hotel are open to the public, and, for Mitsubishi Josh Design, it is hoped that their interaction with such spaces will engender a greater appreciation and interest in mass timber design across the country.

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