A Space That Connects the Forest and People – the Day When Small-Diameter Hardwoods Were Reborn
“The Iconic Large Side of Hardwood Connects the Drawing Room with the Forest and the Town”.
The reception room of Hida City Hall will be renewed using Hida trees. This project was launched with the aim of widely spreading the words on the activities of Hida City, which promotes “development for town of hardwood trees,” to people inside and outside the city. After the proposal, Yano Architects and Hidakuma jointly oversaw the project. The concept of the renewal is “connecting the drawing room, the forest and the town with the big side of the iconic hardwood.”
The new reception room consists of three sides: the ceiling, the high back bench, and the table. They offer the potential for the average thin Hida hardwood to be transformed into a large presence. This article will focus on the products that make up the space and introduce how the reception room was transformed, along with the background surrounding the use of hardwood.
Client: Hida City
Overall project management/production: Kotaro Iwaoka (Hidakuma)
Production direction: Hideaki Asaoka and Teruyo Iiyama (Hidakuma)
Overall project management/architectural design: Taiji Yano & Yuji Yano (OFFICEYANO Co., Ltd.)
Architectural design: Tetsuro Sugiura
Support for hardwood procurement: Hida City Forestry Association, Yanagi Wood Co., Ltd. (Yanagi Mokuzai)
Hardwood Sawmill: Nishino Lumber Co., Ltd. (Nishino Seizaijo)
Construction management, demolition work, interior work, and furniture work: Tanaka Architecture (Tanaka Kenchiku)
Furniture production: Nonaka Woodworking Co., Ltd. (Nonaka Mokkojo)
Chair production: Hida Mukuya
Electrical work: MIYAJIMA Co., Ltd.
Painting: Tanaka Toso
Floor construction (plasterer): Marufuji Kogyo Limited Co.
Beech shade veneer processing: Katagiri Meiki Kogyo Co., Ltd
Is Small-Diameter Wood Suitable Only for Small Items to Manufacture?
Hida City is a place with a vast hardwood forest, and industries including forestry are commonly operated in the area. As the hardwood trees in Hida forest are relatively thin, 90% or more are traded as inexpensive chips (Reference: White Paper on Forests and Forestry in the First Year of Reiwa). In addition, aside from chips, small items and furniture legs have been the conventional use of the wood.
However, here is an idea – is small diameter trees suitable only for small manufacturing or is that the reason why it cannot be used in a large manufacturing? The answer is no. For example, even in architecture, in which using wood is a large part of its process, there must be a way to make the best use of hardwoods. With this idea in mind, Hidakuma tried to increase the exposure for the people of the town to the forest through constructing the space in a large area where we can experience the beauty of the tree species and showing the potential of hardwood trees.
The Products with Many Aspects and Open Spaces
The renewal of the space aso meant a renewal of the concept of the word “reception room”. The room is a bright and open reception room, which somehow resembles a showroom, has the original functions and is a space where your imagination can wander off to new possible use.
What stirs that imagination is the ambiguity of the design of each product. The high back bench also works as a screen or panel. The Beech Shade, changing its expression depending on the amount of light, is ideal not only for social occasions but also for meetings. Placed on an architectural table, the plate is a useful tool in a variety of situations and also serves as a sample of the features of a tree.
The floor has a plaster finish, emphasizing the presence of each product and the expression of the tree species. Drawing out the charm of various hardwoods, the room has created an environment where visitors can be reminded of and be interested in Hida trees and forests.
For the material, we selected tree species that are local to Hida. Beech and oak, which are typical tree species that grow easily in the Hida region, are on the ceiling and table. And for the high back bench on the wall, we select magnolia, which has been used for a long time in Hida’s local cuisine such as Hoba miso and is closely related to the local culture.
The beech shade that hangs from the ceiling is made by combining veneer and reinforced Japanese paper, and shows the dynamic grain of beech, which is different from small items and the legs of furniture. The curved surface that bends under its own weight and covers the ceiling extensively seems to show the size of the scale of nature beech has to offer. The gentle light emitted by the shade wraps around the space and reaches to the people who pass by as the lights of the town at night.
Materials：Beech (Veneer processing), reinforced japanese paper
Size：W3,000mm×L7,000mm× (thickness) 0.25mm
Magnolia High Back bench
The magnolia high back bench integrated with the wall surface is made by connecting 104 core materials of W50 mm x L1800 mm x thickness 25 mm. Each board forms a gradation specific to magnolia, which is dark green, and is lighter in the center and darker toward both sides. The design is made so as to use a projector, but it also represents an enlarged specimen that reconstructs the contrast of magnolia. In addition, the large but legless bench gives the room a light feel.
Finish：Paint finish (natural oil)
The oak table, which has a strong presence in the center, is characterized by a clean and lean design while having a large lump feel of wood. Its structure is similar to the beams and girders in a house and the columns that support them. The top plate used was a thin plate with a thickness of W110 mm x L2,000 mm x thickness of 15 mm. If you want to make a wide table with small diameter wood, the thickness will be small. But in this case, by rotating the board 90 degrees to make it louvered, the board width is changed to work as its thickness.
The connecting material (as in the beam in the house) that joins the top plates was also designed to be 110 mm, and a fine balance was pursued. Only 6 legs support the top plate made of connecting materials and 26 plates, and it secures a suitable personal space even if 12 people sit around the table. In addition, having lesser legs has a strong impact on the impression of the table and the entire space.
Finish：Paint finish (natural oil)
High chair and Plate
The seat height of the high chair was aimed at a height that anyone, regardless of age or sex, can sit comfortably. The seat height, which was originally planned to be 600mm, has been adjusted to the original standard of 520mm. This height is also said to be the comfortable setting at which approximately 30 minutes of conversation or meeting can be comfortably carried out.
The legs are right angles to match the design of the table. The comfortable backrest with a moderate radius matches the height of the table. For this reason, the chair looks in order when it is placed under the table.
Finish：Paint finish (urethane)
We used 10 kinds of tree species including wild cherry blossoms and chestnuts for the top plate placed on the table. There are two types of shapes, a round shape that is perfect for placing a tea cup and a square plate that is suitable for signing and meetings using materials. It has a groove that matches the louvered table. These plates are indispensable elements that not only expand the use of the reception room, but also allow users to directly touch many tree species and feel the diversity of Hida forest.
Lignification in the Forest
As the initial step prior to thinking of the concept and design for the renewal, Yano Architects and Hidakuma visited the Hida City hardwood tree model forest in Ikegahara, located in the northern part of Hida City, as well as a local sawmill and woodworking factory. Based on the ideas that came up in the forest and the dialogue with the hardwood craftsmen, the team discussed on the wood suitable for the project.
The outcome was the concept of “connecting the drawing room, the forest, and the town with the large aspect of the symbolic hardwood.” In the proposal carried out by Hida City for the renewal of the reception room, a total of three representatives, an architectural expert who served as a judge, a hardwood expert, and the general public, highly evaluated our proposal, and the production began.
Craftsmanship and Wisdom
The production process was a series of trial and error. Hardwoods have different degrees of aging and hardness depending on the species. Various craftsmen’s skills and wisdom were collected in order to find solutions for safety and quality, space and product design, while taking the characteristics of the material in consideration. The key to success for this project, which was full of new attempts in many regards, probably lies in the fact it took place in Hida, where many local craftsmen are an expert on wood processing.
The magnolia high back bench integrated with the space is made by Tanaka Architects (Tanaka Kenchiku), a hardwood processing professional.
A total of 104 joints use a process of spline joint to prevent warping and reinforce. The seat surface hires a thicker joint than the back surface to ensure the strength to bear human weight. While all of them are hidden after construction, this is to show the craftsmanship of a carpenter.
The louver-shaped top plate of the oak table is fixed to the connecting material with a shiplap joint, which keeps rattling to the minimum. The central joint where the louvered top plate fits is made stronger with steel plates, screws, and wooden dowels. And the six legs are joined by mortise and tenon joints with excellent strength and durability. All of these are details that do not appear when assembled.
Countless Trial of Experiments
The team has confirmed the strength and illuminance of beech shade under various conditions. In addition to conducting tests using the experimental facilities of the lighting manufacturer, we managed to find the optimum solution through searching for the material to attach to the veneer as well as the finishing method.
The beautiful gradation of the magnolia high back bench is created after repeatedly changing the wood, while keeping the best color balance and order.
This new reception room was completed on March 31 of this year. It is the day when small-diameter hardwoods, which have been used in limited ways, have been transformed. The room is now used for lectures and such which gives an opportunity to show visitors “town development of hardwood trees in Hida City”. It is our sincere hope that the utilization of city-produced timber and the relationship between the forest and people will expand, starting from this room.
Born in Kochi prefecture in 1983. Graduated from Tokyo University of Science in 2007. After completing the master’s program at Tokyo University of Science (Kazuhiro Kojima Laboratory) in 2009, he worked at Itsuko Hasegawa’s Architectural Planning Studio from 2010 to 2013. Established Yano Architectural Design Office in 2013.
Born in Kochi prefecture in 1987. Graduated from Yokohama National University in 2009. Completed Y-GSA at Yokohama National University Graduate School in 2011. From 2011 to 2014, he worked for Hirokazu Suemitsu + Yoko Suemitsu / SUEP. In the same year, Yano participated in the Yano Architectural Design Office.
Tanaka Architecture (Tanaka Kenchiku) / Representative
Born in Furukawa-cho, Hida City in 1981. After graduating from a local high school, he joined Tanaka Architecture, which was founded by his father, after working at Kobayashi Sannosuke Shoten in Kani City, Gifu Prefecture. Tanaka specializes in stand-alone homes that handle solid wood and hardwood. The motto is “a healthy and long-lasting house”. Since the foundation of Hidakuma, Tanaka and the company have collaborated on numerous projects. Mainly responsible for the renovation of old private houses at FabCafe Hida.
President and CEO of Hidakuma Inc.
Born in 1984. After graduating from Chiba University, Iwaoka engaged in designing private houses and apartment complexes at an architectural company. Then he went back for a graduate study at Keio University, researching and producing digital design products.
In 2011, Iwaoka started working at Hidakuma, wishing to create a cafe “Fab Cafe” that offers a creative designing environment. By 2012, as the planning and operating director, he successfully opened FabCafe in Shibuya, Tokyo, where digital design products are being created. He also joined in 2015 to start up half-governmental and half private company, Hidakuma Inc., (official name: Hida no Mori de Kuma wa Odoru) in cooperation with Hida city of Gifu prefecture. 2016 saw a FabCafe opened in the same city. He has been taking up new projects based around the forest resources. In April 2018, Iwaoka became vice president and CEO of the company, then in March 2019, he became the president and CEO of the company.
Graduated from the Department of Environmental Design, Faculty of Fine Arts, Tama Art University. Joined a furniture company in Hida and engaged in furniture manufacturing for 4 years. Interested in domestic timber and forestry, she joined Hidakuma after attending a woodworking school in Tokyo for a year. Enrolled for 2 years and worked as a production manager for office woodification and product development. Left the office in April 2020 due to childbirth.
As we proceeded with this design, we wanted this publicly open reception space to not only convey the charm of hardwoods, but also take advantage of the hollow atmosphere of existing RC buildings and the openness unique to corner rooms. In addition to being used as a formal reception room, we made sure the architecture would let users think of its use beyond the reception. In order to do so, we had given consideration to assure that each section of room has for more use, and multiple functions and effects, and that the interpretation of the room would not be limited to one way or another.
The appearance of the room changes depending on who is gathering, how the plates are arranged, the dimming of natural light and lighting, and the season. And I hope that users will find unique use of the room in response to them.
Yasushi Yano / Yuji Yano
After the construction of the magnolia high back bench and beech shade was completed, I saw the reception room from outside in the pitch back. There wasn’t a table placed yet, but the beech shade lights illuminated the bench, and the first impression I had when I saw the space was “cool”. The impression was completely different when viewed from the outside as opposed to from the inside, and both were far beyond my imagination. It is a reception room where the trees are well enhanced.
From the dismantling work to the furniture construction, the manufacturing of the highback allowed no particular error. Even if the error is 0.01 mm or so, which is invisible to the naked eye, connecting 104 sheets will produce an error of 1 mm or 2 mm. Since it is a bench in the reception room, we thought that many people in all sizes would sit or possibly stand on it, so we put joints between each board to improve durability. Its color is yellow-green now, but when it is exposed to the sun, the color gets darker and greener. People who use the room frequently may not notice it, but I think that such changes are also attractive because that is the beauty of magnolia.
Just like the houses I build on other projects, I want many people to touch the trees. You can’t see the value of a tree without seeing it, touching it, or being in that space. Therefore, I hope that people who visit the reception room to actually feel the wood, and start to like wood and bring up a desire to have some wood items in their own space.
Tanaka Architecture / Representative
This was the first project in collaboration with Mr. Yano and others. On July 25, 2019, the first Hida tour would start with entering the forest for a project plan of hardwood trees in Ikegahara. I remember well that it was a pleasant summer day, in a beautiful forest surrounded by green light shining through the leaves. The next morning, Mr. Yano and his colleagues already showed “Dawn, Burn, Shah (onomatopoeia),” which are the main pillars of the proposal. By the way, Dawn refers to “table”, Burn “wall”, and Shah “ceiling curtain”, and they are onomatopoeias that describe the big side of hardwood (chuckles). Not only for the city’s reception, but also for the space and functionality, we aimed for a place that is open to the public, and, “the small-diameter trees in Hida are not small, they can grow big!” became the slogan for the project.
If you have a chance to visit a new drawing room, you should definitely try sitting on the high back bench of magnolia. The seat height of 520mm is the number that was derived through simulations that took place at both the Yano office and the Hidakuma office, and settling on this height was a tough decision. There is a slight floating feeling, yet there is also a sense of security as you can leave your back against big trees, and your spine will straighten up and your line of sight will rise naturally. Then, the (unexpectedly rough) beech wood grain spreads in front of you, and when you gradually look down, the sky outside the window, the houses, and the people passing by give you a sense of calmness of the everyday life in Furukawa town. Then the uniqueness of each of the hardwoods lined up on the table becomes clearer in front of your eyes, and the image of a beautiful forest surrounded by the green light of that summer day revives. From the woods to the reception room – the transition is complete when both body and mind are filled with hardwoods.
President and CEO of Hidakuma Inc.
In this project, we had many meetings with Mr. Yano and others, and the characteristics of Hida forest and small-diameter hardwood trees were well reflected in each element that made up the space. There were many challenges while working physically close to the project. Yet, I think that the wooden space that does not give any oppressive feeling while using plenty of wood was possible thanks to Mr. Yano’s design and the craftsman’s skill.
Also, what I would like you to personally pay attention to this time is that “this Hida City Hall reception room was created by the people of Hida City.” From cutting trees to sawing, furniture such as the chairs and desks that exist only here, carpentry work, electricity, painting, plastering – almost everything was created by local companies.
As stated in the consortium, Hida is a land surrounded by mountains with many hardwood trees. I believe that it is one of the great attractions that people with abundant knowledge and technology are all in this area, and the visitors can see the whole series of wood work from processing the raw wood taken down from the mountain to making it into a product (upstream to downstream) almost all in our region.
I hope that the people who visit here will find Hida City a good place, and that they spread the word on hardwood trees and the people of Hida after visiting this place.
Article Writer: Takeya Shida
Photographer (completion photos only): Kenta Hasegawa
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