Café Kureon

‘It’s building with wood as though it’s masonry,’ says architect Kengo Kuma of his new, Jenga-like café in Toyama, Japan. ‘It’s a unique building method.’

Using ordinary, affordable and locally-sourced wooden blocks of uniform thickness (105-sq-mm), Kuma ‘piled up the pieces to create an organic building something like a forest.’ Thin steel rods run through the timbers and prevent them from tumbling down.

While the blocks are rectilinear, Kuma’s structure ebbs and flows like a force of nature, eradicating any strict boundary between the building’s interior and exterior: only glass walls separate the piles of timber inside from those outside.

Asymmetry prevents the design from appearing blocky, while limiting the points of contact with the ground gives the wood an unexpected lightness, as though it is growing upwards.

‘The idea of making an organic, fluid space using minimal materials is something we’ve developed in our past projects, such as the GC Prostho Museum Research Centre and the Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum,’ the architect says. The design is intended to be light on the environment, too. ‘Since the wood hasn’t been treated or worked, it can be easily disassembled and recycled.’

Photos courtesy Kengo Kuma.