Furniture House 333㎡


To take full advantage of the spacious site, the Chinese vernacular architecture of the courtyard was incorporated into the plan: the main courtyard was placed in the center of the house, and all the rooms were placed around it in a simple square footprint.

Once the plan was conceptualized, a building system then needed to be selected. I had heard that the craftsmanship of lumber construction in China had been decreasing recently since wooden buildings were in less demand today, but that the quality of furniture remained high and much of it was still being exported overseas. So, the “Furniture House” system I have been using for many years - a system of using prefabricated and insulated furniture for the main structural component, as well as the exterior and interior walls of the building, was chosen.

In designing this project in China as a citizen of another country, I wanted the design to respond to the cultural and physical context respectfully. At the same time, building under foreign conditions where I would be given less control over accuracy and details, I thought, would be a challenge. The design fee was also much less compared to a typical one in Japan, but a low design fee was not an important issue when given this great opportunity to explore the world of Chinese construction.

In order to fabricate the modularized furniture of the system, I needed to study standard sizes and materials of the Chinese furniture construction industry. Of course, neither the 2x4 wood stud nor structural plywood, both of which are the main materials used in previous Furniture House projects, were to be found in any of the factories I visited. Then I made an unexpected discovery- the bamboo plywood that was usually used for the framework of concrete. A piece of this bamboo plywood, beautifully finished with woven patterns on the outer layer felt as heavy and strong, if not stronger, as the structural veneer plywood used in Japan. I quickly took a sample back to Japan for testing, and as suspected, the result showed that the bamboo plywood is structurally stronger than our familiar structural veneer plywood. I thought, if it was possible to laminate strips of bamboo into plywood, then it would of course be possible to construct LVL (laminated veneer lumber) out of bamboo. That meant, bamboo could easily substitute for both 2x4 wood studs and structural veneer plywood and serve as a systemized construction method for the project. Moreover, all exterior and interior finishes on the walls as well as the flooring could be done in bamboo to ensure consistency of materials throughout the project.

Shigeru Ban (Japan)

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