New Directions in Wood
by Naomi Stungo
Wood has been used as a building material for thousands of years. Throughout history, as illustrated by ancient Greek temple design, wooden buildings served as the predecessors and prototypes of architectural designs which were not carried out in stone until a much later date.
The way wood grows lends itself to two fundamentally different modes of construction: strips of wood can be placed vertically, creating a root-like structure over an open space, or it can be arranged in horizontal layers to create an enclosed area.
There is a centuries-long tradition of log construction in Europe and northern Asia. The technical limitations of this horizontal mode of construction are clearly apparent: spans which are longer than the natural length of a log create problems. Moreover, this type of construction is very wood-intensive.
Examples of vertical constructions can be found going back as far as the Stone Age. In areas with a restricted wood supply, the technique of arranging the wood in a "framework" construction was perfected at an early stage: this method characteristically uses posts and bars of similar size and a story-by-story mode of construction.
Framework construction subsequently evolved into post-and-beam construction, and later into wood frame construction, probably the most common construction method used in the world today.
This article is excerpted from Wood: New Directions in Design and Architecture by Naomi Stungo, with permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, Inc. >>>