Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Building Construction

If we look at ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs used to depict a house and entrance, we will see that the hieroglyphs focus upon the walls. Perhaps this reflects the way in which buildings were constructed there—by building up from the foundation. This emphasis on walls, which was to influence the evolution of Western architecture, presumably developed from the need to provide a comfortable interior sheltered from the harsh climate.

Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Chinese Characters
House Entrance House and Other Buildings

If we look at the Japanese writing system, based on characters borrowed from the Chinese, we will see that the characters for house and other buildings all contain the topmost element, the roof. This reflects the Japanese process of housing construction—erecting a wood outer frame and covering it with a roof before making the inner walls. This emphasis on the roof may have developed as a result of the requirement that houses offer shelter from the rain while permitting cross ventilation in the hot and humid summer of Japan. In this way we can find a major conceptual difference between Western and Japanese attitudes toward architecture.

In Japanese house construction, a wood frame is built first, followed by the raising of the roof,
and then the addition
of walls.

The physical division of space in a timber-framed Japanese house characteristically occurs after the roof is raised, unlike the traditional Western method of building in stone, where the walls separating each room are built first and the roof put in place afterward, creating in the end a whole of separate spatial units. The interface between interior and exterior is also different. In masonry construction, a solid wall separates inside and out and is structurally important, so that few openings are permitted. Wood frame construction in Japan, on the other hand, requires no enclosure between the supporting posts and, with the use of movable partitions, it is possible at any time to open interior and exterior spaces to each other. This style of wood construction allows a step-like hierarchy of spaces. Again, with the thick walls of masonry construction, one room is much like another as far as separation goes, but with paper-covered sliding doors, the degree of separation increases with the number of partitioning agents. In the deepest part of the Japanese house, that is, the middle, is the plastered wall, along which are arranged the sleeping rooms. Beyond these are more open and functionally free spaces, divided into any number of rooms by sliding doors, and surrounding these is a wide corridor bounded at the outside by wooden shutters which offer protection from the rain and cold. The eaves extend well beyond these doors, creating a buffer space appropriate to Japan's rainy climate.

Section of Japanese House

Yagi, Koji. A Japanese Touch For Your Home.

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