Making Next to Forest

Seventy-one percent of Japan’s northern-most island, Hokkaido, is covered in forest, comprising almost one-quarter of the entire nation’s forested landmass. It is also the center of wooden furniture design and production in Japan. Compared to other countries with similar forest-to-land ratios, such as Finland, Japan’s ratios are quite low with regard to both rates of locally-sourced vs. imported wood, and rates of wood use vs. waste (25 percent use vs. 140 percent, with reuse, in Finland). This studio examines the balanced ecology and economy of living and making next to a vast natural resource.

The first phase of this studio proposes alternative forest economies with the goal of promoting efficiency and increased local wood use. New material possibilities are investigated through an exploration of different tree parts and the recycling and reuse of wood for material production. In short, a new bioeconomy will be envisioned for Hokkaido, including proposals for enhanced sustainability and efficiency in forestry product development, alongside a reforestation program.

The second phase of the studio proposes a master plan for a site vacated by the Tokai University campus in Asahikawa, Japan. Asahikawa is the second largest city in Hokkaido after Sapporo, located toward the center of the island and snowbound throughout winter. A new campus will be proposed for bioeconomy research, production, and education facilities. As a part of this masterplan, an archive and study center for the history and craft of wood furniture in this region will be included.

In the third phase of this studio, a design will be developed for a chair museum in the Higashikawa township, the sponsor for this studio. The town suffered a severe population decline, but made a remarkable comeback in last fifteen years through the implementation of attractive incentives to bring back young families. The private chair collection of the Oda family—one of the largest and most prestigious collections of the 20th century—was recently donated to the township. The Chair Museum will be built with local wood and materials generated from its region, connecting the design to earlier research on forest ecology and bioeconomy centers.