Video: Prefab Japanese Joinery
In 2009, Kayoko Ohtsuki and Alastair Townsend, graduates of London's Architectural Association, founded Bakoko in Tokyo, Japan. The firm's portfolio includes hotels, restaurants, and cafes as well as theoretical proposals for rain shelters, temporary exhibition spaces, and even ten-foot-tall compost bins shaped like igloos. Bakoko's work also comprises a number of residences, including its current endeavor, the Onjuku Beach House in a seaside town 90 minutes by train south of Tokyo.
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To construct the home, Ohtsuki and Townsend worked with a precut (read: prefab) timber factory less than 20 miles from the construction site. The company, which employs five workers, cuts timber for up to 1,000 homes a year with the goal of saving on-site construction time, improving precision, and decreasing waste. For the Onjuku Beach House, Ohtsuki and Townsend sent their blueprints to the company, where its employees rendered them into schematic drawings with symbols denoting the type of joint at each post and beam intersection. Using specialized software and machinery, the factory workers cut each piece and delivered them to the construction site.
Once the pieces were delivered, it took on-site construction workers but one day to erect the timber frame, using large wooden mallets to join each post and beam. "It was akin to piecing together a large wooden puzzle," Townsend says in the video.
Ohtsuki and Townsed toured the precut timber factory and produced this short documentary highlighting the process. It's a fascinating look at a traditional technique meshed with modern technology to increase efficiency but stay true to the original trade. Enjoy!