In Japan: Rewarding Good Design
By Tom Westcot and Alan Hallman
Beautiful wood is a delight to the eye, and the variety of U.S. woods is
unequaled. To be fully appreciated, such fine material deserves to be handled as
an art form by leading architects and designers, and exhibited in a proper
Letís start with artistry. How can artists be persuaded to create their best work using U.S. wood? In Japan, architects and designers pushed their imaginations and skills to the limit recently when they competed in the first American Wood Design Awards (AWDA).
As to the functions of the competing structures, the variety of the designs and U.S. wood products used were almost as impressive as the buildings themselves. Entries included everything from simple dwellings to a concert hall designed as if it were a huge musical instrument, completely lined with oak.
The winning residential design featured post-and-beam, millwork and fittings of Douglas fir, perfectly complemented by traditional Japanese white plaster and sliding doors.
Japanese observers took in the profusion of different forms and functions, while noting that each of these designs was created with U.S. wood.
The competition spanned different geographic settings and architectural themes. In Himi, in Toyama Prefecture, southern yellow pine beams 2 meters in depth now arch across the local sports stadium, while a residential entry in Susono, Shizuoka, is a light and airy house that clings to a mountain slope.
Throughout Japan, the general public was exposed to the benefits of using U.S. wood, thanks to wide press coverage of the competition. The event provided a window of opportunity to introduce hundreds of architects and designers to the products of the U.S. wood industry, showcasing products from a variety of U.S. companies.
Many of the award-winning entries proved to be outstanding ambassadors for U.S. wood products because of their style and architectural merits. Moreover, they press the limits of building codes. This dramatic use of wood products could set the stage for future changes in Japanese building codes that could benefit future U.S. wood-product exports.
The daring architects who won awards were later given the opportunity to share their professional expertise with 200 of their peers at the American Wood Design Conference held in Yokohama. Their presentations illustrated not only how they used U.S. wood products, but what design problems those materials enabled them to solve.
As a highlight to the conference, awards were presented by Thomas Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
U.S. sponsors gave Japanese building professionals several good insights into the many problem-solving applications that todayís construction industries have found for engineered wood products, both in the United States and Japan.
Sponsors of the events included the American Forest & Paper Association, the American Hardwood Export Council, APA-The Engineered Wood Association, the Softwood Export Council, and the Southern Pine Council.
Westcot is Deputy Director for Marketing in FASí Forest and Fisheries
Products Division. Tel.: (202) 720-3331; Fax: (202) 720-8461; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hallman is an economic assistant in FASí Forest and Fisheries Products Division. Tel.: (202) 720-2229; Fax: (202) 720-8461; E-Mail: email@example.com