Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Week 74: Part I - Romancing wood

Now in the final stage of construction, we are concentrating on final finishes. That means that our civil work is done and so is most of our woodwork. We are now laying the floors, polishing the wood, tiling the pool and getting ready for planting.

A significant milestone is completing the woodwork for the main house. As you can see in the more recent photos of the house, we have used wood quite liberally. The main reason is the design of a very open home that allows the indoor to connect seamlessly with the outdoors. The resulting large openings in the house (every room in the main house has two walls that completely open) need frames and doors, hence the large scale use of wood. Also in the construction of the house, we have tried to reduce the use of RCC due to the carbon emissions associated with cement production. In addition, typical RCC construction over large spans tends to result in sections that are thick and heavy. Instead we wanted a structure that looked light and was able to blend into the surrounding and not be a big block of concrete that has been dropped thoughtlessly on the greenfield site. The resulting material of choice was structural steel and wood.

View of the LHS bedroom with the woodwork for the screen, door opening, roof and chajja
View of our amazing carpenters fixing the screen louvers in the front and back of living room
View of LHS bedroom with the sliding doors all in Burma Teak
I am a sucker for wood. Its warm golden colour with the natural grain adds a rustic quality to the design that is hard to replicate with another material. Aluminum (which was the other material that we considered for doors instead of wood) on the other hand feels relatively cold to touch, look and feel. Wood ages well, it grows old with elegance. 'Fetishisation of wood' was a trend that stood out at the Milan Furniture Fair this year where designers promoted the use of natural finished wood rather than lacquered or painted finish. Another interesting trend that is catching on worldwide is the use of reclaimed wood, recycling the material instead of using virgin wood to avoid the cutting of the fast disappearing forest cover.

View of stacked doors waiting to be installed in various rooms
Of course wood is also a very temperamental material to use. It tends to change shape as it dries, is attractive to insects and can rot with excessive moisture. Wood is most feared when used outdoors. But then it has been the material of choice for building high-end boats and bridges for ages. All in all, I have found that wood is often mis-understood. It is the material that has been used the longest in construction. There are the obvious dangers of using wood but these risks can be mitigated by understanding it's properties and working with them. Using wood in construction is like using silk for a beautiful couture dress, there is a specific way of working with the material and the effort is worth it as the result can be priceless.

Look out for:
Part II of this post where we will discuss our efforts to treat wood, and
Part III where we discuss sustainability aspects of using wood

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