All of the load-bearing outer walls and ceiling elements are simply screwed together and can be disassembled without waste. All of the elements can be separated from each other at a factory using a CNC joinery machine. In theory, the individual board layers and squared timbers can then be used again in new elements.
The emphasis of the design is on clarity of form and clear contrasts, even in terms of the materials used. A purist approach was deliberately chosen in order to ward off cosy associations with traditional timber construction. This very approach resulted in exciting contrasts between organic building materials and the systematic use of forms.
The monolithic reinforced concrete core was simply given a wooden floor in the foyer and deliberately sparse lighting. On walking into the building one therefore encounters an open space that is flooded with light and has sweeping wooden surfaces.
The façade was made of larch wood, edged with timber moulding, in order to emphasise the use of a single material for the outer wall structure. Dark grey metal soffits complement the deep-set windows, enhancing the punctuated appearance of the façade. The surface of the cut-away area is covered in plaster in order to make it distinct from the timber.
There is further contrast inside the building: the structural system enables different layouts to be configured on each floor. Despite the building’s outwardly uniform appearance, there is diversity inside.
This ambiguity is carried through to the division of the façades. In order to ease the defined structure of the balconies, square windows were positioned in the façade, seemingly at random. Their dimensions and heights do, however, follow the functional requirements. This results in deep windows that allow the people inside to see out even when seated.
Many contrasting design elements were implemented in order to break up the strict look of the basic geometric shape. Clear geometry is important to the building’s appearance from a distance, while from close up we see a detailed, horizontal alignment with the organic structure of the wood grain.
In order to ensure clear orientation, the entrance has been cut into the northern side of the building as a negative form. This allows the building’s cube shape to appear closed. Deliberately mounted on a visible base, the main body of the building is on a level surface. The surfaces of the outdoor facilities are completely flat in order to display the cube from all sides to the same extent.
This is emphasised by the way in which their undersides are clad in the same material as the façade. Inside the building, at the very centre, is the concrete lift and staircase core. This forms a clear contrast with the timber outer shell and the interior spaces within the apartments.
However, Mr. Thoma’s house withstood the highest level of seismic shocks that could be simulated. The structure of the house had to be weakened by removing some of the connecting pegs for the house to fall apart, so that the certificate could be issued. The certificate received was of the highest safety class that can be obtained in Japan.
Japan has at its disposal the largest platform for simulating seismic shocks which was where Dr. Thoma’s employees built a Holz100 house for testing. Dr. Thoma could not be present for testing, and he was very surprised when his employee called him to say that they failed to get certified. The certificate is only issued when the tested house falls apart. It is then that the seismic level at which the construction fails is determined.
At this time, entering the Japanese market for building materials was considered virtually impossible even for large corporations, let alone such a small company like Dr. Thoma's. To build houses in Japan, however, one needed to obtain the most restrictive certificate for earthquake resistance.
However, two weeks later a Japanese publisher called to inform Dr. Thoma that he received publication orders for a Japanese translation of Dr. Thoma’s book. Following his publications in Japan, Dr. Thoma started receiving orders for Holz100 from Japan.
Since Dr. Thoma’s technology does not harm the environment and does not leave waste throughout its entire life cycle, it certainly aligns with their principles. At the end, the monk promised his support. Dr. Thoma said goodbye, but questioned how they would be able to support him all the way from Japan and did not expect to hear back from them.
As it turned out, those buildings had also been built from moonwood. The head of the monastery wanted to become acquainted with Dr. Thoma's technology, because one of his student had left him with Dr. Thoma's book. After observing everything, the monks left with a word that Dr. Thoma is turning the wheels of something great, because Buddhists believed that one should live in such a way which does as not leave any traces behind.
Moonwood harvesting was not only utilized in ancient Rome. After the first book was published, Dr. Thoma was unexpectedly visited by a delegation from Japan, led by the highest monk of the Japanese Buddhist monastery Hōryū-ji. The monastery is home to the world's oldest wooden buildings, erected in 607 AD.
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