The ‘Green’ Wisdom of Traditional Japanese Architecture

Yamada Architectural Corporation

which has been sacrificed to live again in the woodworker’s hands. Interestingly. The dismantled timbers are recycled for pre-determined purposes such as Torii (Shinto shrine gates) construction. The connection details allow periodic alignment after earthquakes. then disassembled for shipment to California. The Lunar Cycle and Wood Harvesting When would be the best time to cut trees for the highest quality wood? It is said wood harvested during the week before new moon in winter has less starch content. Left: Cultural Exchange Center at Hakone Garden in Saratoga. and new ones are built on the adjacent site to the exact same specifications.. Structure: Repairable. therefore is more dimensionally stable and more resistent against rot. Transportable. an entire building was disassmbled and transported to a new location. The woodworker’s responsibility is to the tree itself. We recognize a resource efficient sustainable wisdom in this tradition. When needed. followed by another 12months drying.” -George Nakashima The Inner Shrine in Ise is a symbol of Japan’s wood culture. and Recycle. The building was actually once assembled in Japan. Disassemble. Thus timbers were used over generations. For the past 1300 years. if it is harvested from sustainably managed forestries. air dry lumber has by far the least embodied CO2 amount. this renewal cycle has been repeated. The joinery timber connections were designed to allow disassembly and damaged components replacement. The same team reassembled the timbers piece by piece on site. trees are cut and left with leaves for 3 months in the field. The building is a reproduction of a 19th century live/work urban townhouse in Kyoto. which is only 1/6 of kiln dry lumber. Air dry timbers have been essential to traditional Japanese wooden architecture as they are suitable for joinery connections. In traditional drying process. According to the chart. The Art of Woodworking. It was built in rigorously traditional way by a team of Japanese carpenters in Kyoto. Every 20 years the buildings are dismantled. representing the idea of eternity (sustainability) in Shinto belief. “Trees have a yearning to live again. They are constructed of 200 to 300 years old Japanese cypress. California. kiln dry lumber’s embodied CO2 is not that less than concrete. Wood Air Dry Lumber: One of the Greenest Materials Embodied CO2 of Various Materials Many of us know wood is a green material.. Build.Sustainable Architecture Tradition in Japan 01. But sustainably harvested lumbers are not equally green. Reference Source: Japanese Architecture Illustrations Revised Edition by Architectural Institute of Japan / Shokoku Publisher .

Air. and hold community events such as festivals. typically 23 foot wide. The townhouses typically are live/work buildings that accommodate various commercial or manufacturing uses in addition to residential use. The streets are narrow. The unfloored earthen service corridor runs from the front to the rear of the plot. Roof plan of a townhouse neighborhood a townhouse facade Street view of a townhouse neighborhood Festival on a street VITAL TOWNHOUSE COMMUNITY The population density of typical townhouse block was about 300/hectare. Service Corridor: Passage for Residents. It contains the kitchen and served as the passage for the residents. and Daylight. Since late 16th century. This is equal to 77. and serve as intimate community space for residents who live on both sides. The skylight and vent over the corridor space provide natural ventilation and daylighting in conjunction with the backyard. Sprinkling water on the street for ‘passive cooling’ effect during summer.Sustainable Architecture Tradition in Japan 02. It is a space where residents interact. it chills the air and the corridor space brings the chilled air from the street into the inside of the building. utitlities. socialize.700/square mile. Compact & Elegant Living Kyoto : High Density Urban Living Kyoto’s original street grid pattern shown in red A diagram showing typical townhouse block configuration & street grid. Typically two-story townhouses containing a few small courtyards were built closely in the block. In conjunction with the front street space. each urban block had about 30 narrow lots in the block. When water is sprinkled onto the street surface. Townhouse Architecture Ground floor plan of the townhouse neighborhood a detailed townhouse ground floor plan townhouse longitudinal section diagram townhouse cross section diagram small courtyard view from dwelling space Compact Courtyard & Backyard Provide Comfort & Amenity The architecture of townhouse incorporates small courtyards & backyards that provide comfort & amenity. Each lot’s typical street frontage is only 16 feet. it had nourished the development of sophisticated urban culture in Kyoto. Sample street view of townhouse block Kyoto was Japan’s capital from 794 to 1868. Roughly the size of 260 feet by 200ft. high density urban blocks bordered by the grid street pattern have developed. air. The front of a townhouse traditionally served as a retail space. which is about 3 times more than that of New York City. and light. Today it is known for its wealth of traditional heritage. Reference Source: Kyoto Townhouse (“Kyo-no-Machiya”) by Noboru Shimanura & Yuikio Suzuka. SD publishing courtyard view from dwelling space . and the depth is about 90 feet.

sunlight. Every action in our daily life is regarded as part of Zen practice. Therefore it should be taken in a right portion. and mouth. and even people’s behaviors in Japan. No trace of realization remains. walking.Sustainable Architecture Tradition in Japan 03. After meal.. For more than 700 years in Eiheiji. “ . the arts. chopsticks. and this no-trace continues endlessly. When made real by myriad things. 6. 5. 2. head. each monk is provided only one tatami mat size (3ft x 6ft) personal space in a dormitory setting and that’s where they sleep and spend a bit of personal time at the end of the day. and does not have to be always delicious. This would enable us to appreciate the taste of food and also to think of the whole supply chain & its environment. . As to accommodation. Dogen 1200-1253 Environmentally Conscious. ear. the monks’s lives are disciplined by this philosophy. and the people. While dining. Water Conservation Water is a precious resource for life.” Food is considered to be a medication that protects your body from withering.. clothing and dining utensils.” -excerpt from Genjo Koan. the temple founded by Dogen. cleaning. and spoon A trainee monk have nothing but the bare essential personal belongings: That is. It is believed having this perspective enables us to live well as human beings. each monk immediately cleans his/her own utensils elegantly with a small volume of water provided. July 5th 2007 issue & Eiheiji booklet “ Message from Dogen Zenji” .all actions we take every day. A Zen master Dogen founded Soto Zen sect in the 13th century. 4. cup. and forget the self is to be made real by the myriad things. bathing.. 3. Each monk uses his/her own utensils for dining. Vegan Food Food is Medicine for Life Strictly vegan foods are served. greeting.. water. your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. and dish Lacquered wooden board Foldable dining lacquered paper tray Dish wiper. He left words valuable for our time. Zen influenced architecture. Not only meditation. Every Day. just a bowl of water is supplied for a monk to wash face. In every morning. dining. no speech is allowed. Ambient Green Culture You Are The Environment. but cooking. Surplice Belt Set of stackable bowl. Ingredients & cooking utensils are “handled with as much care as if you were handling your own eyeballs.To study the self is to forget the self. Reference Source: Super Premium Magazine SERAI. Minimum Material Possessions Photos of Eiheiji Carrying one’s own dining utensils 1. the land.