Why Do We Want to Invite Architects to the Forest? The Answer Lies in the Miracles They Bring into the Forest.

”Very few trees generate profit, and they are useless” – is what people might say about the Japanese hardwood. To prove them wrong, Hidakuma has been working hard to come up with the best use of the wood along with the architects, who we invite to the local forests with hardwood. Upon the invitation, they surprised us with their magical innovative ideas, created by the combination of diversity of the forests and the architects’ creativity. The magics they bring vary from “creating furniture with a piece of wood that you can only find in forest”, to “creating a big space from a small wood timber”, and “transforming the time axis forest has to the value of wood”. In this article, we share how the three sets of architects enjoyed the forest tours, and what they came up with through the forest tour.

Invitation for the Architects to the Forest

”We want the creators and architects to know about wood”.
Since the foundation, Hidakuma Inc., has invited architects and designers to Hida to show local sawmill and woodwork factories. Having said so, we had never taken them in the midst of forest surrounded by trees all around. The main reason for not visiting forest was that the hardwood forest is located far apart from the town, and the road to get there was not as well maintained. Also the terrain has steep hills, which makes walking challenging. In addition, we had never thought that “forest” and “how we use the wood” have anything to do from each other.
But we should look at the big picture – as our saying goes, “Look at the wood, not forest”. So, we decided to proactively invite the professionals to the area called “Model Case of Hardwood Tree Full Use” hoping that we think of all possibilities together while standing among the trees.

Make the Original Wood Shape into Furniture

Akinori Hamada and his project members from Aki Hamada Architects walks vigorously even on steep hills.
When we use wood, it is normally a long straight shape. Bent or forked branches are considered non-profitable, therefore those not-so-straight trees end up being left in the forest. So as a result, what we see on the market is a “2-meter long straight wood”.
However in the actual forest you would not see any of those – the same goes with fish – we would not see sliced fish meat swimming in the sea. Surprising thing is that the whole tree can be 5 or even 10 meters long, if we include the part of the tree that is bent. And this is the true shape of the trees that you can see only on forest sites, not timber yard, sawmill or woodwork factories.

Hamada came up with a dynamic idea of sculpture-like furniture, making the most of the original wood shape. It would cost inefficiently if we try to recreate an organic complex shape in a workshop. However, what if we make the most of the original shape of the tree, 3D-scanning the wood, and use the data as part of the practical furniture?
Hamada is originally from Uozu of Toyama, a neighbouring prefecture, where he had designed a cafe at the recently renewed Uozu Buried Forest Museum. Perhaps in his mind, looking at trees in the forest resembles how you look at fish as a whole, and cooking it from scratch.

Size Does Not Matter?

Those who are thinking hard in the forest are Taiji and Yuji Yano of Yano Architects Inc. They are originally from Kochi, who boasts the top forest density in Japan, and our prefecture Gifu follows her. Taiji and Yuji have worked on the promotion of switch to timber in both public and private construction sectors making full use of Kochi timbers. 
Indigenous trees in Kochi are conifers such as cedars and Japanese cypress. Their challenges are how to make the most of local large and thick trees, whereas in Gifu we are faced with challenges of how we deal with the small-diameter trees. In the past Hidakuma has been dealing with a variety of trees used together for woodwork. But the Yanos have come up with a different approach.

Having a chat with a knowledgeable carpenter Tanaka.

Their idea was to create a large surface by cutting wood from different angle, in which way we could have even a larger piece of wood than large-diameter trees. For example, we could use a larger surface on the ceiling and a larger light fixture, or the walls that would remind us of a large tree segment, and large mixture piece of furniture made with the combinations of small wood pieces… All of these could create a feel of surrounded by trees.
So size does not matter. On the contrary it matters when it is small. We are making sure to turn “being small” into an advantage, creating new use of trees and space.

Transforming the Time Axis into Value

We had the honor to have Shuichiro Koizumi from Koizumi Sekkei to an event that Hida city and Hidakuma had jointly sponsored, “Hardwood Community Planning Tour, Hida City”. 
Koizumi is a designer known for his interior and product works that he approaches from designing perspectives. He joined the tour as he wanted to have a good understanding of the main interior materials, hardwood trees, and its background.
“I think all stories I heard during the tour in the forest can be the root ideas of architecture and design”, excitedly he told. Among all Koizumi heard, what gave the most impression on him was the idea of “time axis” – the talk about the new projects of hardwood forest Mr. Nitta of Hida City Forestry Association gave.

“The main focus for architects, when working on projects, is how much they will be talked about after being in the market, or I must admit that it goes even further to ‘how much publicity we receive’. On the other hand, the forestry industry pursues otherwise: they go beyond the personal desires and think of their work based on a grand time axis of 50-100 years. This was an eye opener”.
The time frame for architects. And the one for forest. And what are they worth when monetizing? Koizumi has been a great team player in our team creating a system and products to let people know of the value and potentials hardwood forestry has to offer.

We Create Together, in the Forest.

Forest offered architects a chance to think outside the box – they got filled with new ideas and images that led them into new discussions that had not occurred to them when they worked with drawings and wood material catalogs.
This series of tours with architects made us believe, more than ever before, how the value of forest resides in the relationship between us and forest, and how important it is that we build close relationships with the architects and designers in order to add value to forest and trees.
Every conversation and exchange of ideas differs, even though it takes place in the same forest. It all comes down to the season, sound, smell, who you go with, at that time and place. It is a once in a lifetime experience and cannot be re-created the same way as before.
We hope that we can invite more architects and designers and as often as they can. 
I look forward to having you over.

Interested in Creating Architecture and Design with Hida’s Hardwood Trees?

Hidakuma’s professional staff members are here to offer you a total support, ranging from consulting, designing to set up of wood space, building materials, and furniture. For enquiry, please contact us from here.