The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are a hotbed of athletic prowess, but it isn’t just the competitors in the limelight. Architectural design is central to the success of the host city on the global stage. This article focuses on two architects who champion timber construction and the traditional Japanese technique of yakisugi.

What are Yakisugi charred woods?

Yakisugi is the art of charring cedar to create blackened timbers. This controlled process, carried out by skilled craftsmen, alters the cell structure and changes the appearance of the wood. The grained surface becomes crackled and the texture has been described as akin to crocodile skin. A brushing technique can be used to smooth the surface and reveal a subtle grain pattern.

Although the result is aesthetically pleasing, the process was developed to increase the longevity of timber-built homes. The oxidised charred timber is stabilised and strengthened through the process. It also develops greater resilience to boring insects, rot, and discolouration. This creates a durable cladding material.

As well as providing a protective outer layer, charred wood cladding requires minimal maintenance. Yakisugi buildings in Japan are left to age naturally, but in modern architecture, protective contemporary finishes can be applied to maintain the original look of the building.

The manufacturing team at Exterior Solutions Ltd have learnt the Japanese technique of Yakisugi. We developed our Shou Sugi Ban® range of charred timber cladding. This includes black textured and smooth finishes, as well as contemporary colour twists. We supply charred cedar, as well as oak, Douglas Fir, Accoya® and Kebony larch cladding.

ShouSugiBan charred accoya london

Yakisugi Revival in Modern Architecture

Have you seen the track, field and football events in the new Olympic Stadium? This contemporary build was designed by architect Kengo Kuma. He is renowned for being disillusioned with post-war Japanese buildings that are largely constructed from concrete.

Architect Favours Sustainable Natural Materials

Kengo Kuma believes that the current generation had lost touch with Japan’s heritage and the natural landscape. He is on a mission to change that. His architectural designs favour local, natural materials. As an example, Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium features a latticed wood framework. The timbers were sourced from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures; a reflection of national unity.

Kengo Kuma has used charred timbers in several architectural projects including Portland Japanese Garden and even a Chicken Coop at Casa Wabi Arts Foundation in Mexico! He has explained that locally sourced materials create buildings that sensitively integrate with their surroundings.

In an interior design collaboration with Lasvit, he took casts of the surface of crackled charred cedar and created a mould. Glass poured into the mould took on the textured finish of charred cladding, creating a unique lighting feature.

Charred Timber Japanese Teahouse

Construction has not been limited to the main sporting arenas; Pavilion Tokyo 2021 is a series of art installations that have been erected for the Olympic Games. One of these is a Go-an teahouse constructed from grass and charred timbers by architect Terunobu Fujimori.

Terunobu Fujimori is an architectural historian, who is inspired by the methods and materials used by primitive people. He believes that we can learn to live more harmoniously with nature when locally sourced materials are used.

This interactive yakisugi teahouse invites people to crawl through the circular entrance and climb the stairs for a view over the local cityscape and woodland. This isn’t the first burnt timber teahouse created by the architect; it is a theme that runs through many of his architectural projects. Often on stilts, these rooms take some effort to reach, but the visitor is rewarded with spectacular views.  Examples include Takasugi-an (too high teahouse) and Beetle House, which was exhibited at London’s V&A Museum.

The Lamune Onsen hot spring resort in Oita, Japan and Yakisugi House in Nagano, Japan are other designs realised in burnt cedar cladding. The black cladding finish gives the buildings a timeless quality, and timbers are always collected from the surrounding forests.

Charred Timber Cladding UK Supplier

You don’t need to head to Japan to incorporate charred timber cladding in your commercial or residential project. Buckinghamshire-based Exterior Solutions Ltd specialises in the manufacture of high-quality charred timber cladding.

Our Shou Sugi Ban® brochure can be downloaded from our website. We are happy to talk through the client requirements for your architectural plans. Contact us on 01494 711800 for advice, timber samples and quotes; we like to help you make informed decisions.

You may be reassured to know that we are PEFC and FSC accredited and use trusted UK sawmills to supply our timbers. As the timber charring process takes place in our on-site workshop, we work efficiently and monitor quality standards throughout. Trust us as your external cladding supplier.