Arigatou gozaimasu, Terunobu Fujimori. It’s Friday and it feels good to be thankful. At The Artisans Group we are thankful to Mr. Fujimori in part because he helped us discover the joys of Yakisugi, also known in America and Europe as Shou-Sugi-Ban.
Mr. Fujimori is a Japanese architect and architectural historian who not only creates genuinely thought provoking architecture, he carried the light and brought us an awareness of architectural burnt wood. In case you don’t know (I didn’t), yakisugi narrowly translates as burnt Japanese Cypress (Sugi).
While the almost reptilian facade is texturally eye catching, it hides some intriguing building properties. Burning the wood’s surface sugars leaves the lignin to do its business of being insect, rot and fire resistant without additional chemical treatments. In other words, it looks cool AND you don’t need to paint or stain. For people interested in low maintenance building materials the prospect of a visually interesting, natural and inherently durable material is really, WOW!, exciting.
The excitement is visible. It was only in 1991 that Mr. Fujimori finished his Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum (the project that brought yakisugi out of history’s long shadow) and now, here in 2017, our world is rich with yakisugi search results. All over the world we see artisans experimenting with a wide array of wood species and levels of charcoaling. Today “Yakisugi” as a term is no longer wood species specific. It is found on exteriors (siding, posts, fences) as well as interiors (floors, walls, cabinets, furniture) and has become a powerful tool in our Design-Build palette.
Two of our projects feature darkened wood exteriors to stunning effect. Both Cedar Haus and Prairie Passive are clad in yakisugi siding, yet feature different levels of charcoaling. On the Cedar Haus, we worked with a very dark yakisugi. Its rich midnight allowed us to contrast and mute the more reflective metal and concrete while complementing the warm unburnt cedar. The overall balancing effect allows the home to nestle into its environment. For the Prairie Passive house we worked with much lighter shades of charcoaling. The variation in material color let our craftsmen skillfully ground the house beneath its soaring eaves while still catching the eye as a distinctive aspect of design.
For you readers who would like to know more about the actual technique follow these two fine’n vetted links: Inmatteria and New Civil Engineer. And for visual flair, here is a photo of one of our clients rendering yakisugi.