House of Woodwork was a mental odyssey about how to use wood to create contemporary buildings. We've gone a long way, but we've come back to three basic anchors.
Wood is an old material. The history of using wood as a building material is probably not much younger than that as hand tools. Among all kinds of construction workers, carpenters may be the ones who use their brains the most. People have used wood to build palaces, make tables and chairs, and contain food since ancient times. Comparing to other materials, wood is light, easy to sand, and not difficult to obtain, as long as it is where the tree grows. Wood is warm to touch, rustic in color and very resilient. Wood is so advantageous that we naturally want to be friends with it.
However, wood has not been part of the mainstream of contemporary building activities. Cities are icy forests only made out of concrete and steel. Reinforced concrete is so simple to use, just waiting for the fluid to solidify. In contrast, wood requires us to do well a demanding job in the connections and surface maintenance of various forms of components.
CATS embraces the fragility of wood and cherishes the joy of thinking brought by wood. We have more than 10 years of experience in designing timber structures. The "House of Woodwork" project is located in Dafeng, Yancheng City. It is built to be a research and development center for timber structure buildings, and it is adjacent to its wood component manufacturing factories. In this project, we used glulam timber and CLT for structure and finishes. Structural components are completely enclosed from outdoor weathering, while a variety of wood veneer is used boldly on the façade and soffit. The wind and rain will further cause surface changes, so the building seems to have a sense of life and pass of time.
The ideation of the structure starts with three numbers: 13m, 6m, and 2m. Buildings in northern Jiangsu generally welcome sunlight, which determines the depth of an office building is appropriate at 13m, so that there is enough sunlight from both the north and south directions. The project is composed of two 13m deep blocks, based on a typical structural span of 6m. The technical process of the glulam structure is based on the stacking and gluing of lumber of the same size, and 6m is a friendly beam-column size that fits the specification of the lumber. Finally, 2m is the basic unit of vertical height, which stipulates the height of the continuous horizontal views close to the floors of the building, and the same height goes as the CLT cladding. Spaces such research lab require five times as high a space as 2m, and the highest roof ridge is seven times as high as 2m.
In addition to the precision of structure, we also thought a lot about giving the pitched roof form. Many houses have sloping roofs. Seeing the small-scale pitch roofs is an easy trigger to remind people of their memories of the house. It gives people a good sense of intimacy and makes the building detach from the boringness of the surrounding factories. The space enclosed by the roof increases the usable internal height and directly exposes the rhythm of the wooden structure, which is different from the traditional construction where the pitch roof is merely used as a kind of form and waterproofing. A sense of home is precious, and the workers of the factories in the outskirts deserve this kind of home-warm association.
In this project, all debates about architectural form finally fall on the evaluation from energy dimension. Under the general set-up of north high and south low, the relatively tall block in the north is set to block the strong wind and create three-story warm terraces, while the low block in the south allows more sunlight to enter the rooms; Continuous glass windows make ventilation easily available everywhere, but the overall proportion of glass is not out of control; horizontal protrusions assist the necessary south-facing sunshade work, and so on.
At present, no one doubts the correctness of using less energy to build and operate a building, but real efforts to force it into practice are barely started. Quite actively, we expend our understanding on what makes a good architecture, create from an energy perspective, and enjoy thinking brought by materials.