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Winter Cabin in Japan Merges Tradition with Modern Technology


kengo-kumaIn northern climates, buildings are often put up with some form of synthetic insulation and mechanical heating; a method that uses much energy without being the most efficient. In Japan, the indigenous people, called the Ainu, build for the winter by using earth with sedge grasses and bamboo, with warmth provided by an ever-burning central hearth in a system known as the “chise”.

It is with these traditional principles together with modern materials that local architect Kengo Kuma has built an experimental translucent home that uses natural light and heating patterns for winter-proofing.

According to Kuma, the Meme Meadows project was built to ensure a dynamically-heated interior by using a membrane made with polyester fluorocarbon to coat the larch wood structure.

The inner part of this membrane had another membrane – made of glass-fiber-cloth – with an additional polyester insulator produced from recycled PET bottles, in-between the membranes. This allows for circulation of the air in-between to keep the internal environment of the house comfortable.

Warmth is provided by the ever-burning fireplace warming the floor. The warmth thus radiates throughout the building to keep temperatures uniform. The translucent nature of the walls also ensures natural daylighting.

To make room for further testing of the technology, the glass-fiber-cloth membrane can be replaced with other materials to see how these would affect the heat distribution in the building. This is testimony for the aim of this experimental building, which, according to Kuma, is to provide “a dynamic environmental engineering” to replace the static engineering of the 20th century.

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