A fresh and open invitation to the public to enjoy the external and internal pleasures of art and architecture.

To mark the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the city of Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes Gallery invited dRMM to design a temporary artwork. dRMM proposed a tower to conceptually contrast with the predominant horizontality of the city, offering an opportunity for visitors to the site to climb the tower and discover views across the city.

MK40 Tower is manufactured as a freestanding structure pre-fabricated in sections made of 162mm thick cross-laminated timber. Erected in seven days, the tower opened to the public in August 2007. 20 metres high, visitors climbed 101 wooden steps to reach a platform and panoramic views of the city and beyond. At the base, a shipping container – where the disassembled tower may be stored – housed a coffee bar. An accompanying exhibition in the Project Space documented dRMM’s pioneering work in timber construction techniques. Over 5,500 people enjoyed a visit to the tower.

MK40 Tower is both a landmark to celebrate the city and a structural experiment to demonstrate engineered timber’s capacity to serve as building core. Using different types of staircase, the architects tested and proved the equivalent of a seven storey timber building core. In this sense, the structure can be seen as ‘useful art’. The structure is entirely fixed with screws. As no glues were used, the tower was simply unscrewed in three sections, and in this way it can be quickly reassembled upon announcement of a new home.

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