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What We Discovered through the Use of Small-Diameter Hardwood in the Suzuyo Head Office
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Outline

Renewal Project in the Suzuyo Headquarters - from the Process of Effectively Using Wood

Suzuyo & Co., Ltd., a major logistics company, has set themselves as an innovative and flexibly transformative company for more than 200 years since its establishment, aiming to be a company that always provides what the society and the environment need. The company’s office renewal project in Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka Prefecture used furniture made from Hida wood.

Suzuyo started this project in collaboration with Loftwork Co., Ltd., in May 2018. It is a work style reform that approaches from both the working environment and employee awareness, which rapidly changes. Those changes we refer to include declining birthrate, aging population, labor shortage, new technologies, and work styles suited to the current rapidly transforming situations.

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The space of the 5th floor CODO and annex office that opened in September 2019 was designed by architect Shuhei Goto. Hidakuma supported wood coordination, furniture production direction, and furniture production in order to express Mr. Goto’s envisioned shape with wood.

In this article, we will focus on introducing the process of creating this office space and products, as well as the ideas for effective use of hardwood and a number of experimental samples that we have created.
(For articles on product information, please click here.)

Process

Wooden Floor that Succeeded in Drastically Reducing Waste with the New Wood Cutting Methods

Here it is – a hardwood floor spreading across the office space. The first thing needed to do to make an “outspoken” floor from hardwood was to make new rules for the wood cutting process.

Hardwoods are “natural products” that come in various forms and shapes.There are no exact same quality wood grain, size and stock. In addition, they are inefficient when it comes to using in mass production, due to its curves, knots and stains. There would possibly be a shortage of the same materials and come out costly to make a wooden floor of this scale. However, we decided to give extra thought to it as  it would lead to the realization of our mission of “distribution of hardwood” only if we could solve these problems.

Then, we came up with the idea of a standard size of “70/90/110”.
The traditional method was to make the floor in one-size-fit-all (i.e., 100 mm wide floor material).

 

However, some boards have widths of 150 and some 200, and there are cases in which a few pieces of lumber can be efficiently taken from one lumber board, while others can only take two. As a result, you may need 1.5 to 2 times more wood than originally planned.
The standard size of “70/90/110”, on the other hand, is a system that allows you to cut board out of each material with the width in 3 different sizes, instead of one standardized one. This will generate the least wooden materials as a result.

 

Instead of using only certain tree species as a material, we supplemented the lacking wood by mixing similar tree species. Also by following this new method of efficient timber cutting, we were able to dramatically reduce the disposal rate of the materials. In addition, we successfully created a unique expression that emerges when different tree species are mixed.

 

Experiments to Combine Various Species of Hardwood Floor to Discover Diversity of Tree Characteristics

Hidakuma's Asaoka (right) introducing various samples to Goto (left)

Production in the process

Hidakuma proposed to architect Mr. Goto, 27 types of floor samples that were experimentally produced and combined with various tree species. Here are some of the characteristic features.
(For the hardwood floor at the Suzuyo Office, “beech mix”, “white tree mix”, and “cherry hardwood mix” have been implemented.)

Beech mix
Material type: beech, oak, chestnut, etc.
Fitting: tongue and groove, diagonal
Finish: clear
A combination of beech family species, the most common tree species in Hida. Heavy and durable, and suitable for various furniture. Over time, the oak and chestnuts get darker, while the beech keeps its whiteness, bringing out the nice contrast.

A mix of trees that changes over time
Material type: Magnolia, chestnut, cherry, amur cork, etc.
Fitting: tongue and groove, straight
Finish: clear
Trees containing a substance called tannin darkens by reacting with the moisture in the air. Tree types that you can enjoy its changes into darker colors and appearance over time. Resistant to water.

Open-grained material mix with rough grain
Material type: Japanese oak, zelkova, elm, ash, chestnut, etc.
Fitting: Tongue and groove, straight
Finish: clear
A combination of “open-grain” tree species with thick pipes and rough grain. The wood grain stands out, which makes any dirt or damage less unnoticeable. The texture is not as smooth and has a moderate roughness. Hard and durable.

Hida Hardwood Herringbone Mix
Timber: Various tree species based on chestnut and cherry
Fitting: tongue and groove, Herringbone
Finish: clear
A combination that reflects the ecological balance of hardwoods from Hida. Using chestnut and cherry as its main mixture, the board is mixed with various other tree species in different colors. Also possible to make it a soothing color combination. The fact that the balanced use of these trees leads to the creation of forests is a great story to share.

White tree mix
Material type: cherry birch, ash, maple, caster aralia etc.
Fitting: Thin plate, straight
Finish: plain wood
A combination of tree species with whiter appearance. Finished with a pale tone. With a white wood finish with less reflection, it is easy on your eyes.

Cherry hardwood mix
Material type: Cherry, cherry birch, bird cherry, Japanese bird cherry, etc.
Fitting: Thin plate, straight
Finish: clear
A combination of cherry tree species, such as mountain cherry, Mizumezakura, Japanese plum blossom, and Japanese bird cherry. The color varies from light pink to reddish brown, and the texture is smooth as you feel it. Hard and strong, and water resistant.

Chestnut rough finish
Material type: chestnut
Fitting: thin plate
Finish: white tree
Without the finish with the plane (automated plane), it has an unfinished look with a band saw cut. There are innumerable saw-cutting marks on the side, leaving rough texture.

Cherry with bark
Material type: cherry, birch, etc.
Fitting: Thin plate, extra layers
Finish: clear
A combination that highlights the bark. Used it as is without any polishing.

Meetings one after another with Goto and Loftwork going into detailed discussions.

We check the stocks of trees compared with Goto’s design to see whether it is feasible to allocate tree species to create the ideal design outcome.

Hidakuma's proposal as of April 2019. In the finished design, more than 10 tree species of trees are used in the space.

Counter Top with Tree Color Gradation in the Making

A super-long counter with a length of 26 meters set up at the south window of the premises. That alone is the longest counter in Hidakuma’s history, but that is not the only surprise.
The first 5 meters are adjacent to the lively kitchen and meeting area, where lively communication takes place. As you go further, the end of the counter is located in a quieter and “out of sight” area. We aimed to create a gradation of “active” being symbolized with red trees to “relax” white and green trees to match the scene.

One piece of 500 boards aligned: in the order of hoebisozakura cherry (red) → mountain cherry (reddish brown) → birch (pink) → horse chestnut (white, yellow) → magnolia (white) → core of magnolia (green). They are arranged carefully so that the grain and color would look similar, and it became a huge gradation counter that looks like one big tree.

 

From the right side, it gradually changes to "hoebisozakura cherry (red)" → “mountain cherry (reddish brown)” → "birch (pink)" → "horse chestnut (white)" → "magnolia (green)".

With every 50 to 80 mm, we search for boards that have similar colors and grain, and write the numbers on each piece. Over 500 boards are lined up.

Magnolia, from darker to lighter color. Successfully managed to create a gradation with just one type of tree.

It was so long that the team rented a nearby timber yard space to arrange.

Storage for kitchen utensils attached towards the end of the counter. 3D verification has been used so that it would function efficiently as a counter as well as a storage.

Designed a very simple drawer rail mechanic so that the user would see the hardware as little as possible.

Making a drawer

Finished with the top plate and the wood grain of the storage area all aligned perfectly.

This is one of the most popular spaces in CODO right now.

At the sawmill, we searched for trees with slightly different colors and then sawed them with minimum waste. To make it look like one big tree, we made a gradation by recording one by one from 500 different types of trees with similar colors and grain. Furthermore, these were installed in a narrow space with a length of 26m without any deviation. Even though this was a complete challenge to craftsmen, the team has created a wonderful counter that brings together the skills of the craftsmen from the sawmill and workshop.

Meaningful Use of Trees for Each Place

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This project used more than 10 types of hardwood. Among them, there are many trees that are found in the forest but are not usually used as timber.
With Goto and Hida’s woodworking partners, the team thought through how to use trees in a significant way for each place instead of using various tree species indiscriminately.
There are materials suitable for each function – for example, wood grain would help dirt from shoes not to stand out on the floor; a white and gentle wood grain would offer a relaxing feel; and nice smooth wood would be perfect at where people frequently touch.
This project was another opportunity of realization that wood is the most flexible material that can meet such expectations.
As a result, the project used the most variety of local trees in Hidakuma’s history.
It was significant that it was the creation of a new office for logistics giant Suzuyo that moved domestic hardwood, which is normally known as difficult to distribute.



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As a “first product company” aiming to rebuild sustainable relationships between rich forests and people, Hidakuma focuses on manufacturing that takes the bio-balance of forest seriously. By designing everything from felling to lumbering, drying and processing, Hidakuma continues to update the way using wood with minimum waste and sustainability awareness. Please stay tuned.

Architectural Photographs: Kenta Hasegawa
Author: Hideaki Asaoka (Hidakuma)

Members

Shuhei Goto
Born in 1982 in Iwata City, Shizuoka. Graduated from the Kyoto Institute of Technology with a major in architecture and design, and received a master’s degree from the same university. After working at Hideyuki Nakayama Architects, he founded Shuhei Goto Architects. He has been a part-time lecturer at Shizuoka University of Science and Technology since 2019.
www.shuheigoto.com

Suguru Takahashi
Loft Work Co., Ltd.  Layout Unit Producer
Born in Maebashi City, Gunma. He received his master’s degree from the Tokyo University of Science. After graduating, he worked at an architectural design firm, where he worked on mainly overseas clients’ properties and supervised the design of residential and commercial facilities. In 2018, he joined Loftwork, were he works on creating spaces. He strives to design values that connect people, society, and the future.
https://loftwork.com/jp/group/layout

Hideaki Asaoka
Belongs to the company Hida no Mori de Kuma wa Odoru (Hidakuma). From Hida City, Gifu Prefecture. After graduating from Nagoya University of the Arts, he worked in furniture manufacture and design at a furniture manufacturer and an interior design business. In 2016 he joined Hidakuma, working in a wide range of areas including product development, design, production and construction. He has extensive knowledge of wood and a profound respect for craftsmen. Asaoka works hard every day to confer new value to wood.

Company Profile

Suzuyo & Co., Ltd.
Since its establishment in 1801, over 200 years we have been developing services centered on logistics under the spirit of “coexistence”, while expanding our network in Japan and overseas. In order to coordinate the total logistics of our customers, we will organically connect the “sea freight/air freight business”, “warehouse/DC business”, and “domestic transportation business” to offer advanced SCM (Supply Chain Management) proposals to customers. We provide cutting-edge logistics solutions such as 3PL (third party logistics) promotion. https://www.suzuyo.co.jp/en/

The Suzuyo HQ Renewal Project CODO

Organization
・Client: Suzuyo Co., Ltd.
・Production/project management/creative direction: Loftwork layout unit
・Construction supervision/interior design/furniture design: Goto Shuhei Architects
・Materials coordination/furniture production direction: Kotaro Iwaoka・Hideaki Asaoka・Teruyo Iiyama (Hidakuma)
・Production: Nishino Lumber, Fujii Furniture, Kanemoku, Kakishita Lumber, Tokiwa Lambatek, go-products、MIYAJIMA (in no particular order)
・Curtain design: Studio Akane Moriyama
・Sign design: hokkyok
・Photographs: OFP

Would you like to check your office environment starting with furniture?

At Hidakuma, we will work closely with you, including office furniture proposals to design and installation.
For enquiries see here.