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.
Simplicity is the key to the Veneer House system. People can assemble a Veneer House building like a plastic model kit, with no professional expertise or specialized equipment.
Since plywood is an accessible material around the world, the building components can be produced anywhere. The data used for the production of these components can be processed by any CNC router, so the production and supply of a Veneer House is not centralized. Whoever wants to use the systems can produce Veneer Houses whenever and wherever they want.
The essence of the Veneer House system is to make architecture more familiar to people by encouraging them to join in the construction process. We have organized various types of workshops to help introduce people to the system. These include explanatory workshops using scale architectural models for both construction personnel and local people. We have also held workshops in which large groups of people can join to assemble a building or fragment of a building together. For children too young to participate in the actual construction, we prepare toy kits with the same panel system to promote understanding of the Veneer House system.
We try to create opportunities for as many people to engage in the construction process as possible, regardless of their abilities.
By illustrating the entire construction process diagrammatically in a Building Manual, the Veneer House construction process can be easily understood even by those not familiar with architectural drawings.
We encourage as many future users of a building as possible to participate in the construction, but of course not everyone can join full time. In such circumstances, using social media or websites in combination with the Building Manuals is effective. For example, when the construction process and progress is shared on facebook, construction participants can instantly check what has already be done and figure out what they should do next. This prevents redundant work and reduces errors during construction.
The Veneer House’s structural frame is made out of pre-cut plywood components, but we try to tailor the exterior cladding of each building to the local climate and culture. Sometimes this means adopting local materials and construction methods.
Rather than appear out of place, a completed Veneer House should feel familiar to local people. Indigenous materials and construction methods enable local people to repair the building exterior with their own hands, further reducing the need for outside labor, equipment, and expertise. The Veneer House aims to produce an architecture that harmonizes with the surrounding landscape and nurtures a sense of locality and community.
Because the Veneer House Project originated in the reconstruction efforts of the Great East Japan Earthquake, we have developed it to be effective as a temporary shelter or a gathering place in emergency situations. However, storing plywood components just for the sake of emergencies would create large storage costs. Conversely, making design decisions, securing materials, and cutting plywood into components after a disaster occurs will consume valuable time.
In order to supply the Veneer House promptly in emergency situations, we believe that it is best to create a product that is commercially available on the market at ordinary times, but can be gathered from storage immediately should it become necessary. We are currently exploring the feasibility of this supply system.