BRINGING ARCHITECTURE CLOSER
WE asked ourselves
WHAT WE CAN DO AND WHAT SHOULD BE DONE
In 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami swept away thousands of homes and lives in a matter of minutes, leaving deep scars on the hearts of those affected. In the aftermath, the impacted area faced shortages of skilled builders as well as construction materials and heavy equipment, impeding the path to reconstruction.
In response, Hiroto Kobayashi, professor of architecture at Keio University, and his students searched for ways to contribute to the recovery. Together they developed a new construction system that ordinary citizens could build quickly, inexpensively, and easily with locally available materials.
This is how the Veneer House Project started.
A SELF-BUILD ARCHITECTURE SYSTEM
Kobayashi’s team began by investigating the potential of plywood (known as “veneer” in Japan) — an excellent construction material that can be found at affordable prices anywhere in the world. Plywood is made with accurate dimensions and high material strength, which minimizes warping overtime. In addition, plywood can be made from forest thinnings, parts of trees that might otherwise go unused. Using plywood as a structural material cuts waste and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, reducing stress on the environment.
The Veneer House system is composed of plywood components that are pre-cut using saws or CNC routers. The assembly of these components is simple enough to enable people to construct buildings on their own without relying on special skills or equipment.
IN BRINGING ARCHITECTURE CLOSER
Architecture has developed into an extremely specialized, technically advanced field, but this has created a distance between buildings and their users. In order to restore the connection between people and the built environment, we believe that people should become involved in the process of construction itself.
Through the many Veneer House projects, we have learned that when community members work cooperatively to construct a building, local knowledge and culture are inherited, which deepens their attachment to the building and the community at large. It is possible to foster a sense of collective ownership of a building by making the problem of its construction one’s own.
We believe in bringing architecture closer to people.
How can we bring architecture closer to people? How can we bring people closer to each other? Here we introduce the Veneer House methods that we have developed in response to these challenges.