Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rediscovering the Art of Wood Construction

Back to Basics in China:
W+P’s first project in China is nearing completion! We designed three small tea pavilions for a corporate client. They will serve as hospitality spaces for entertaining VIP guests that consist of international, high-level government officials and Fortune 500 companies.
Hospitality is invaluable for this high tech company. In Chinese culture, the Tea Ceremony is a cultural activity to express friendship and gratitude for long-term relationships. It involves the ceremonial preparation, presentation and drinking of tea.
I’m proud to have had the opportunity to assist in the selection of three separate sites for the tea houses. Each pavilion was modified to take advantage of its location and views. Our approach infused  the client’s desire to use natural wood and organic materials.
This led to our discovery that wood construction is something of a lost art in China. During the Song Dynasty (960 -1279), temples and dwellings were built with wood using pin connection. Architect Li Jie wrote “Yingzao Fashi” (that is, “Treatise on Architectural Methods or State Building Standard”), which Emperor Huizong of Song Dynasty had published in 1103 in order to standardize architectural construction techniques for builders, architects, and engineers. But in modern China, suitable wood material is not readily available and almost all new construction in the country utilizes steel and concrete. 
Our client, inclined to use an uncommon construction material, had project management staff seek out a Chinese contractor that was associated with a wood supplier in Canada. The contractor’s framing crew was taught the art of working with wood in construction.
The tea pavilions now serve as examples of how this “lost art” can be successfully built in today’s China. Through such projects, people can rediscover the natural beauty to the Architectural order documented by Li Jie. We at W+P are privileged to have contributed to a renewed hope of bringing back this forgotten piece of Chinese culture.



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