If the term 'wooden architecture' calls to mind rustic cabins, think again. Wood is experiencing an architectural renaissance, gaining recognition as the world's foremost sustainable building material. Renewable, strong and beautiful, wood is now the main material being used for incredible cutting-edge buildings. No architect shows off its amazing capabilities quite like Japanese icon Kengo Kuma, who uses it in the most unexpected ways, showing us that we just need to start thinking outside the wooden box.
Sunny Hills Dessert Shop, Tokyo, Japan
Where else have you ever seen a shop facade that resembles a giant bird's nest? Kengo Kuma wrapped the Sunny Hills Japan dessert shop in a faceted wooden covering using an ancient technique called jiigokugumi, which joins each wooden piece together without the need for glue or nails. This interwoven wooden construction is continued throughout the interior, shading it from the sun and adding visual interest.
Daiwa Computing Research Building, Tokyo, Japan
Most architects designing a computing research center for a university might go out of their way to create an effect that's cold and futuristic, but Kuma gives the building a contemporary yet warm and welcoming feel with a facade of slatted wood. The layered slats on the Daiwa building at the University of Tokyo give the building a sheltered, shade-dappled feel, as if it were covered in leaving leaves and branches.
It might seem like there's a Starbucks on every corner, but none of them are quite like the one adjacent to the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine in Japan. Paying tribute to the unique location, which is the site of many traditional Japanese structures, the coffeehouse features an interwoven installation of 2,000 wooden poles.
GC Prostho Museum and Research Center, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
This gorgeous, incredibly serene structure was inspired by the system of Cidori, an old Japanese toy that uses wood sticks assembled via unusually shaped joints that can be extended by twisting the sticks. Structural engineers confirmed that this building method could be expanded for use in actual architecture and not just toys, making the latticed research center possible.
Hoshakuji Station, Takanezawa, Japan
Preserving an abandoned rice storage house constructed of a diagonal stone and metal frame system, Kuma continued the visual theme into the interior with a plywood ceiling. Envisioned as a porous connection to the paddy fields and wooden houses of the town, this undulating timber soffit changes the shape of the room as it extends from one end to the other.
Iiyama Plaza Cultural Complex, Hokuriku, Japan
Who says timber siding has to consist of narrow horizontal slats? Kuma gives the exterior of the Iyama Plaza Cultural Complex a faceted appearance with wood cladding applied at various diagonals for a dynamic effect. The architect's signature criss-crossed timber installations can be seen in the interior, including an intimate performance space.