By Sal Maccarone
Building a wooden structure without the use of nails, screws, fasteners or adhesive is not by any means a typical approach. It is time, patience and specific knowledge that can make such a thing possible. Wayo (or Japanese style) wooden architecture reflects the sensitivity, environment, and the “affection for gentle spaces” prevalent in early Japan.
The Wayo style is most familiar in the temple like structures that are associated with so many colorful gardens throughout our country. Made of scented woods such as Japanese cedar, Japanese cypress and cherry, this art form goes back more than a thousand years. These woods are chosen for their strength as well as the scents (and healing powers) that they contribute. Earthquake proof, Wayo wooden architecture is also remarkable because the hand-cut joinery becomes stronger as time goes by.
While this architectural style is abundantly significant, it is the craftsmanship that I would like to focus on. The joints and intersections of these fascinating buildings all lock together as an intricate puzzle that will never come apart. Not even if you want it to come apart! Once the joints are forced together, there are non-removable wooden “keys” that are carefully hammered into place. This unmistakable architecture is fashioned of simple yet amazingly complex cuts. The massive timbers interlock with each other in a magical way that is concealed when all is said and done.
The art of making the interlocking cuts begins by carefully marking the pieces to be joined in pencil. Miter joints, butt joints, edge joints, dado joints, dovetail joints, and mortise & tenons are laid out on the beams to be joined. Sometimes up to eight pieces of wood will come together in one place, each with a variety of cuts, to form a section of a building. Multiply this process hundreds of times, and you can begin to get a sense of how laborious these buildings are to make.
Some of the more impressive of these structures reside in the Japanese Gardens within Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. The bold red buildings within the gardens are premier examples of Wayo architecture. Blending with the lush gardens and waterfalls that make it always seem like spring, Wayo is the architecture of nature. The substantial wooden columns and beams topped with heavy sloping hip roofs are what makes this style so unique, and enjoyable.