Extreme Joinery: Wood Building Skips Nails, Connectors

By Bill Esler | Posted: 06/30/2012 7:28PM


Bill Esler woodworkingnetwork Wood Lumber Custom Cabinets  A 5,500 square foot wood building has been constructed in Japan using an unusual engineering premise: jumbo-sized wooden puzzle pieces (think Rubics cube) that interlock through joinery to hold the sticks together. The designer hopes it will restore hand-cut wood construction to Japan.

The cypress building was constructed in Kasugai-shi, Japan by Matsui Construction, under the direction of Jun Sato Structural Design, based on a architectural design by Kengo Kuma & Associates (KKA). It's laid on a concrete foundation, and adjoins the local museum that commissioned it.

Founding architect Kengo Kuma says he wants to "recover the tradition of Japanese buildings" according to the Wikipedia entry on him, reinterpreting it for the 21st century. Many of Japan's medieval wooden temples and palaces have survived intact for centuries, despite earthquakes.

Architecturally, the cypress wood structure, with multiple interior levels, "originates from the system of Chidori, an old Japanese toy," says KKA. "Cidori is an assembly of wood sticks with joints having a unique shape, which can be extended merely by twisting the sticks, without any nails or metal fittings."

The tradition of the wood joinery toy making has been passed on in Hida Takayama, a small town where skilled craftsmen still produce the puzzle.

A toy Cidori has a wood 12 mm square as its element. For the building design, says KKA, this was transformed into different sizes. Parts are 60mm×60mm×200cm  (2.36"x2.36"x 6.5') or 60mm×60mm×400cm (2.36"x2.36"x13.12').

Before construction, completed in 2010,  Jun Sato, the structural engineer for the project, conducted a compressive and flexure test to check the strength of the system, and verified that the engineering used in the wood puzzle toys could be adapted to full-scale buildings.

"This architecture shows the possibility of creating a universe by combining small units like toys with your own hands," says Kuma. "We worked on the project in the hope that the era of machine-made architectures would be over, and human beings would build them again by themselves."

The interior spaces are light and airy, and beautiful examples of wood interior construction.


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About the Author

Bill Esler, Woodworking Network, WMS

Bill Esler

Bill Esler, Editorial Director, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for overall content at WoodworkingNetwork.com Woodworking Network magazine, and related newsletters. Bill also manages event programs for Woodworking Network Live conferences at the Woodworking Machinery & Supplies Expo in Toronto and Cabinets & Closets Expo. He developing audience engagement programs using custom digital printing, live lead-generating events, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at besler@woodworkingnetwork.com or follow him on Google+.

Comments (5) Leave a comment 

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stuart paley    
usa  |  July, 06, 2012 at 06:12 AM

this is what I am talking about cypress is not only sustainable but is comforting material to the owners Bevel-siding.com

Bob Chesley    
Grand Rapids, Mi  |  July, 06, 2012 at 01:43 PM

I agree with Brian, serious waste of wood. Old barns here in the US were made of interlocking timbers and wooden dowels. Less wood used, more space inside and many survived earthquakes and high winds. Just because wood is a renewable resource doesn't mean it should be wasted.

Georgia  |  July, 13, 2012 at 07:19 AM

A waste of wood? That's not a waste of wood.... Bureaucracy keeping loggers from entering a burned forest, that's a waste of wood...

Georgia  |  July, 13, 2012 at 07:37 AM

What I'd like to see is a line drawing of the basic joint. That would be instructive...

Stephen Haley    
Dallas, TX  |  July, 13, 2012 at 12:07 PM

The "waste" comments are a waste of the writers' and readers' time. It's a unique study and piece, not a proposal to revolutionize the construction industry, for crying out loud! Besides, no matter the amount of timber used, I'd be willing to wager that its carbon footprint is still less than that of traditional materials and construction methods, when you factor in all the chain of custody of extracting and gathering raw materials, transforming them through manufacture into building materials, then transporting to and transforming into assemblies/subassemblies/parts at fabrication plants, then transporting to and assembling at jobsite. The situation gets even more evident if you factor that during their lifetime, the trees were contributors to a negative footprint, with all the CO2 they absorbed and the O2 they released.


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