Lots of art are meant to be seen and not touched. It is visible to the public but separate, untouchable and unknowable. That is not the case with Town Enclosure, an art installation that’s also functional. The incredible design was created by CLB Architects.

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Wooden slats lined up horizontally in a curved figuration to create the art installation

Town Enclosure was commissioned by Jackson Hole Public Art with support of the Center for the Arts, along with several individuals and private businesses in Jackson, Wyoming. It is both a sculpture and a functional gathering place that is always open and always accessible to the public. It is a performance space, a place to socialize and a place to get a look at amazing art.

Related: One of the largest CLT construction in the US is in Oregon

Wooden slats configured standing up

Now relocated to Bozeman, Montana, the installation is a circle that is 52 feet in diameter made up of cross-laminated timber wall panels standing 13.3 feet tall. The panels are seven to 12 feet wide. Upon approach, the installation seems to echo the natural architecture of the mountains in the background and blends in spectacularly with western construction seen throughout the region. The design is open, airy and ingeniously designed to give it even more complexity.

Standing wooden slats lined up in a curved formation

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a type of mass timber that has become increasingly popular in recent years because it is highly sustainable. This material is made by gluing together soft pieces of wood to create bigger pieces. CLT is made from boards that have been trimmed and glued together in layers crosswise. It creates large, strong slabs of wood.

Made this way, lumber can be every bit as strong and durable as steel and concrete, which have been popular building materials over the last century. With more focus being placed on sustainable construction, wood has become a superstar again.

A curved half circle made out of standing wooden slats

Compressed wood is actually highly fire-resistant, though fear of wood construction and fire is what made the use of concrete and steel so popular in the first place. CLT is not easy to ignite and is effectively self-extinguishing, as the outer layer of wood may burn off while the rest remains unburnt.

Around 11% of all global gas emissions come from building and construction, according to Vox. Constructing buildings out of CLT can change all this. CLT also stands up well in earthquakes.

Wooden slats forming a circle in the snow

In other words, CLT is one of the materials that will help humankind achieve a much more sustainable, cleaner future. And when wood can do that much, no art installation made with it is merely another art installation.

+ CLB Architects

Photography by Matthew Millman, Krafty Photos, Tuck Fauntleroy and Cody Brown