Wooden assemblages in the Japanese culture

Wooden assemblages in the Japanese culture

9 May, 2016

Some weeks ago in Woodlovers we went through the concept of the carbonized wood in traditional Japanese architecture. Today we look back at Japan, fascinated by its amazing assemblages. In 1989, Torashichi Sumiyoshi and Gengo Matsui published Wooden Joints in classical Japanese Architecture, which is compulsory reading to get to know this fascinating technique. In...

Some weeks ago in Woodlovers we went through the concept of the carbonized wood in traditional Japanese architecture. Today we look back at Japan, fascinated by its amazing assemblages.

In 1989, Torashichi Sumiyoshi and Gengo Matsui published Wooden Joints in classical Japanese Architecture, which is compulsory reading to get to know this fascinating technique. In this book Sumiyoshi  and Matsui reveal a great variety of assembling shapes, from the easiest to the most complicated techniques. For this purpose they show different blueprints and photographs of already made mock-ups to illustrate each example.

Japanese assemblajes

Although in the world of product design it is relatively easy to find examples of wooden assemblages, it is rare to find this complicated technique in recent architectural buildings. However, we can find a perfect example of this technique in Zurich, in the Shigeru Ban Architects studio. The headquarters of the Tamedia offices is a tribute to Japanese tradition.

wooden assemblages

© Didier Boy de La Tour

The whole structural system of this building has been entirely made of wood, including the joint system. The usual steel joints have been substituted by wooden beech plugs that accompany the load-bearing transmission.

wooden beech plugs

© Didier Boy de La Tour

The holding structure, which consists of pillars and twin beams, was designed to be assembled on site, as it was a three-dimensional puzzle. The structural elements are joined by means of open articulations, offering an innovative and environmentally friendly proposal to the project.

fitting elements

© Didier Boy de La Tour

The paired beams are connected by oval wooden beech discs 40 mm wide as reinforcement. These resulting pieces are assembled by a big wooden peg that is inserted in a wooden slot. Obviously, the exact fitting of the elements is essential and one of the most difficult complexities of the project.

traditional wooden assemblages

© Shigeru Ban Architects

We can also find architectural and traditional wooden assemblages in other projects from Japanese studios such as the ones in the Pavillion Woods of Net, in the Hakone Open-Air Museum in Japan, by the Tezuka Architects or in the Museum and Centre of Invesigation GC Prostho by Kengo Kuma & Associates. The latter one is ased in the Cidori, a traditional Japanese game where some wooden pieces are only joined by their own assemblages.

spatial puzzles

© Abel Erazo

Ability, technique, art and tradition come together in these spatial puzzles. The artisan hand cuts and assembles all the wood looking for a way to avoid nails, screws or bolts and giving all the power to ingenuity.

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