The History of Japanese House ConstructionJapan’s architectural history is distinguished by a unique type of timber construction that dates back more than a thousand years. The architecture is known as sukiya-zukuri, which translates to building in which to enjoy tea. It is characterized by a simplicity of design, minimalist style, and a strong emphasis on natural materials such as wood, bamboo, and paper. The Japanese people’s love for nature extended to their homes, and it led them to be innovative when it came to designing their houses.
The Climate’s Impact on Kyoto’s ConstructionKyoto, the former historical capital of Japan, has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. It experiences hot and humid summers, cold winters, and a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year. With such weather conditions, builders had to be creative when constructing houses that could withstand the elements. It was essential to construct buildings that could protect the inhabitants from the rain, winds and ensure efficient air circulation during the sweltering summers.
Thin Wooden Shingles: A Popular ChoiceDuring the Heian and Muromachi times, thin wooden shingles became the preferred choice of roofing material. The shingles were made of wood slats meticulously arranged on a wooden substructure. The shingles were then covered with a layer of bark or straw to provide additional protection against weather elements.
Why Stones Were Added to Roof TopsDespite the durability of the wooden shingles, they often became displaced during strong winds. To counteract this, house owners would often add stones to their roofs. Initially, this practice was widespread. However, Kyoto, being a city that is challenged by severe weather conditions, this practice eventually became a necessity.
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The Practical Purposes of Rocks on RoofsThe primary purpose of the rocks was to hold down the wooden shingles, preventing them from flying away during storms. Additionally, the rocks improved heat retention during the winter months. They also helped to reduce indoor temperatures during the hot summer months by absorbing some of the sun’s heat. The use of rocks on rooftops has several practical advantages:
- Preventing wooden shingles from being lifted by strong winds.
- Maintaining indoor temperatures.
- Reducing indoor noise levels by absorbing sound waves.
- Providing fire resistance to the roofing structure by holding the shingles down.