A while back, a friend and I discussed the similarities between the composition of music and landscape design: things like contrast, counterpoint, melody, dissonance, and unity . And just as these elements have been mixed, remixed and reinterpreted into a multitude of musical genres, landscape design can be richly varied in style and expression and still be, in a very expansive sense, "good". The bland, "sameness" of much contemporary landscape "design" in many ways resembles what Elton John once lamented as the "sameness" of contemporary pop radio.
This might strike the reader as an odd way to introduce shou sugi ban, (the ancient Japanese technique of preserving wood through a controlled charring process), but stick with me and let me explain.
Shou sugi ban (literally "burnt cedar board") was developed in medieval Japan as a way to protect wooden buildings from fire. As anyone who's tried to relight a cold, carbonized piece of firewood knows, this is an excellent (albeit non-intuitive way) to fireproof wood.
The process also arrests decay and repels insects without the need for chemical preservatives, paints and retardants. Up until the early 2000's, this was essentially a "lost" art in Japan. Modern cladding like plastic and concrete had largely replaced this traditional construction technique. Shortly after it was revived in Japan, architects all over the world, particularly in Europe, started employing the technique.
But here's the cool part: rather than merely imitating traditional Japanese architecture, European designers integrated this technique seamlessly into contemporary design and the old was new again.
We've been incorporating shou sugi ban into our projects for a little over a year now- a technique we think dovetails perfectly with our goal of constructing beautiful, sustainable and unique landscapes for our customers. Here's a glimpse of some of what we've been working on.