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For years now, Japanese architecture has been admired around the world for its high level of craftsmanship, precision and simplicity. Designers from all walks of life are inspired by it and Japanese companies or architectural firms are very often cited at renowned exhibitions. But although concrete and other modern materials are now widely used, an ancestral material remains timeless: wood .

It was the dominant material in Japan for centuries but unfortunately industrialization and the lack of wood resources made it much less present than it was in urban spaces from the 20th century. If you ever have the chance to go to Japan in the Kobe region, don't miss visiting the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum which is a museum in which you will find more than 32,000 items related to Japanese architecture traditional wood-based. You will discover valuable information about the method used for the manufacture of traditional places such as tea houses or tokonoma . While waiting to go to this museum, today we invite you to review Japanese architecture based on wood through some of these main axes.

The complexity

To illustrate the complexity, and paradoxically the apparent simplicity, of Japanese wooden constructions, let's take the example of a traditional sukiya -style tea house . When you look at a tea house it is true that it is pretty from a visual point of view but in terms of its architecture at first glance it is very similar to a classic construction. However, when we take the trouble to separate the foundations of the house from its finishes (roof, paint, etc.), we quickly realize that it is not as simple as that.


There are almost no nails or even metal fasteners, but what is most surprising is the ease with which the carpenters juggle different materials. Indeed, we see within the very foundations crossings between bamboo wood but also cypress wood in order to use the solidity of one and the flexibility of the other to be able to create something successful on the plan. technically but also aesthetically. This also allows you to grow a larger room, which is interesting for tea houses which are not often very spacious. For those lucky enough to be able to visit the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum you will find the architecture of an unfinished tea house to clearly see how the wooden beams are cut and assembled.


Beyond the simple technical complexity of Japanese wooden buildings, what is also striking is the control and serenity with which the carpenters operate. They control the entire construction process from A to Z like steps to follow on a list and at no time do they worry about the future of their construction once it is up.

When we take a closer look at Japanese construction standards we notice that they are indeed very strict and applied to the letter. This discipline factor applied to all buildings certainly plays a big role in making them particularly durable and resistant.


In addition, they attach particular importance to the tree itself which is behind the wooden beam of a building. For example, if the tree was facing south, the carpenter will make sure to orient the beam of the same tree in the same direction once used in construction. This allows buildings to remain in place for centuries, such as certain wooden castles from the medieval period which are still standing.


After emphasizing the complexity and ease with which Japanese wooden structures are manufactured, we cannot help but also notice the sense of detail on the technical level with which they are endowed. Aesthetically, the castles of the medieval period or the temples are indeed magnificent masterpieces. However, it is paradoxically not this addition of ornament which hinders their resistance because solid foundations are always laid.

We can even easily assure that old construction techniques are more resistant and more advanced than those used today. The manufacture of the wooden beams as well as all the rest of the parts used being done manually, this indeed adds room for maneuver to the carpenter to adapt his cuts according to the wood. Which, on the other hand, is not the case with the cutting of the boards in the factory, which are all identical.


Should we return to ancestral manufacturing techniques?

After seeing the almost perfect mastery of wood with which it was used in constructions it is legitimate to ask why it is not reused more in modern constructions which are undergoing a decline in terms of architecture. . On a large scale it would obviously be impossible at today's time to obtain so much wood to make entire cities, especially since the latter is not made to be aligned over hundreds of meters like it is possible to do this with materials like steel.

However, it would be interesting to take a closer look in the building industry at all these techniques used whether in tea houses or in castles to take advantage of them. But above all, the most important thing is not to make all these ancestral techniques fall into oblivion.

Finally, although wood is primarily a construction material, it is also something with which we can make pretty ornaments or accessories. For example, a wooden ring but also bracelets or pendants, each more original than the other.


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