The next generation of skyscrapers in our cities might not be built from concrete and steel, but from an altogether more ancient building material: wood.

Today the tallest timber-framed building in the world is an 18-storey block of student accommodation in Vancouver called Tallwood House (see what they did there?) - but it will be dwarfed if a new generation of wooden skyscrapers make the leap from concept to physical reality.

Last year, architects Perkins+Will began work on a proposal for an 80-storey timber-built residential block, the River Beech Tower, situated on the riverbank in central Chicago.

Not to be outdone, London has followed suit with plans for its own 80-storey wooden residential block on top of the city’s Barbican Centre.

  The view from inside Trätoppen ('treetop'), Anders Berensson's proposed wooden skyscraper for Stockholm
The view from inside Trätoppen ('treetop'), Anders Berensson's proposed wooden skyscraper for Stockholm
Image: Anders Berensson Architects

In Stockholm, meanwhile, architect Anders Berensson has unveiled plans for what would become the city’s tallest building - a 133-metre high, 40-storey block clad with decorative wooden numbers.

“This is the beginning of the timber age,” as British architect Andrew Waugh told Dezeen Magazine back in 2015.

But why timber? It’s lightweight - about one-quarter the weight of an equivalent concrete building - which means foundations can be smaller. Wood is environmentally friendly, too; it’s a renewable resource that locks in carbon dioxide, and as a building material it has a much smaller carbon footprint than steel or concrete. And it looks good, of course.

High-performing timber-frame buildings are nothing new. When it comes to building upwards, however, the structural properties of wood have - until now - restricted what architects have been able to do.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that this revolution is being driven by technological innovation. Architects today have access to new materials such as cross-laminated timber, a kind of plywood made using advanced adhesives with a structural strength comparable to steel - and that has enabled them to start thinking big. For the timber-framed buildings of the future, the sky could well be the limit.