Fresh off the long-delayed completion of Christchurch, New Zealand’s dramatic “Transitional Cathedral,” the world’s foremost practitioner of cardboard-tecture, Tokyo-based environmentalist and “emergency architect” Shigeru Ban, has completed an entirely different sort of disaster-resilient, paper tube-based sanctuary: a cozy mountain hut on nestled amongst the lush forests of Yakushima Island in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture.
A hotbed of renewable energy research and home to a biodiversity-rich UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of larges swaths of primeval forest (and what may be the world's oldest tree), Yakushima Island is one of Japan's most magestic tourist destinations. And anime buffs take note: the island's dramatic landscapes also inspired the setting of 1997’s anti-forestry epic “Princess Mononoke.”
I should also mention that it rains a lot on Yakushima. And by a lot, I mean really a lot – “35 days a month” as the boot-clad locals would say about the super-scenic moss factory that they call home.
A remote forest that receives among the world’s highest levels of precipitation (upwards of 176 inches per year with annual average humidity levels at a soggy 74.3 percent) and is considered as the wettest place in all of Japan may seem like a somewhat unlikely locate to erect a cabin built from paper tubes. Yet somehow, Ban, a man who specializes in erecting structures that can withstand the very same elements that damaged and/or toppled the buildings that they are designed to replace, manages to make it work.
Built on the foundation of an older hut that had fallen into disrepair and was demolished, the Yakushima Takatsuka Lodge features a couple of key design features — a steeply sloping roof and exterior walls lined with Ban’s signature replaceable/recyclable cardboard tubes — that help it stand strong in such gnarly subtropical conditions.
The new building is made predominantly from paper tubes that can easily be replaced if damaged by this natural environment. The exterior consists of a paper tube wall that is filled with transparent ones placed in-between, allowing light to filter through to the interior. Slanting downwards from its highest point, the roof helps to drain rain water off the volume. a vertically stacked interior consists of a split level mezzanine and small balcony, giving direct access to the surrounding landscape. Similar to a typical ‘tree hut’ the experience helps one to connect with the ancient forest.
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