Wednesday, May 11, 2011


WOOD - During my travels through northeast Pennsylvania I came across these great kilns used for drying lumber –probably Pennsylvania ash getting ready to become Louisville Sluggers. I saw these incredible piles of lumber whose regular stacking and relentless rhythm reminded me of a Peter Zumthor building.

Wood is a living breathing material that tells a story long after it is harvested. You get an understanding of how it was cut or how old the tree was through its grain patterning. Have you ever had a solitary moment in a building that is constructed entirely of wood? It smells great and it sounds a bit like a symphony when the wood expands, contracts and checks. Needless to say, one has to factor these nuances into the design when detailing with wood. When it is done right, it can elevate the design to extraordinary heights.

Take, for example, the Shaker oval box.

Shaker design is absolutely elegant in its materiality, simplicity, form, function, and craft. The oval box is an extraordinary example of this. The box is comprised of two materials: maple and pine. Pine was chosen for the top and bottom because it was easy to work with and readily available. Maple was chosen for its sides because it was easily bent into shape. Notice the beautiful seam, which is called a swallow joint. This is designed for the box to take expansion and contraction as the wood does its thing. The box embodies the spirit and philosophy of Shaker design which is ”don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.” I would add “as long as it is an inherent part of the design and doesn’t interfere with its function.”

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