Material Interrogation: Wood Block House

The Wood Block House by Tadashi Yoshimura Architects is part of a series of wood houses by TYA.  The modest house is located in Nara, Japan for a retired couple that occasionally shares their home with 2 grandchildren.  A 2-story glazed wall faces the main road and as night sets in, the wooden wall provides a warm glow along the street. The wooden screen gives the appearance of being woven, like the reeds of a basket.  However, it is composed of a series of curved planks that link together to form a shear wall.  The wall is durable enough to support a second story; yet its pieces can be taken apart and reassembled in another location.

 How does a perforated wall composed of so many parts become a shear wall?  The kit of parts gains strength as a whole and all the framing members look exactly the same.   In this instance the bracing to counter the lateral loads looks no different than any of the other pieces. However, 6 different pieces are used in the building of the wall.  Each one is strengthened and reinforced to the degree necessary to carry the loads above.  Interior bands are added to those pieces that carry the most load, specifically those supporting the platform of the 2nd floor.  The cedar veneer planks provide stiffness in the tension caused by their bending as sheathing normally would.  And finally, instead of nails to hold each piece together, the H-brackets allow each piece to lock into another.  The wall appears to be incredibly thin, but the wood veneer at each end and in the H are actually quite thick.  It’s the undulation of the wall that provides a deceitful appearance.  Though it is composed of many smaller pieces, the wood block wall is no more than a more elegant solution to a shear stud wall.


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