Renovation Workshop of a Japanese Old Wooden House.
Carpenter Koji OSHIDA
Tsumiki divided the process of renovating a single-storey farm house in the Chiba countryside into two different, balanced zones of labor – one where the work would be done by expert carpenters and one where the client would, after observing the work of the carpenters, perform the work himself, with lots of guidance from the Tsumiki team. The kominka also served as the site for several renovation workshops, attracting both DIY renovators and architecture students alike.
A large portion of the renovation process of any old kominka must include adding insulation to the building, both under the floorboards and in between the roofbeams. This added insulation gives the notoriously cold and drafty kominka a new life, and dramatically increases thermal comfort in the home throughout the year while reducing the heating and electric bill.
At one renovation workshop, participants learned to install each element of a flooring system, from simply digging holes, to joists, insulation, plywood underlay, and hardwood flooring, finished with a natural sealant.
For the kominka owner, the public workshop may serve as a milestone to measure how far they’ve come in their own skill development, as they are asked to participate in the teaching process along with Tsumiki staff.
Likewise, for the professional carpenter, these workshops encourage them to grapple with how to teach their craft to the public. This moment of exposition for the carpenter is particularly meaningful in a time when the number of working master craftspeople is declining in Japan, as fewer young people are gravitating towards artisanal apprenticeships. The public workshop offers an alternative way for the master craftsperson to transmit their knowledge to future generations.
Tsumiki clients and workshop participants learn that there is a heirarchy of skilled actions needed to renovate their house: some skills, such as installing glass wool or foam board insulation, require less precision and may be learned in a single morning. Other actions, such as cutting custom wood trim pieces for a house that is rarely ever level or plumb, require years of training to perform efficiently. But perhaps the most empowering experience for the DIY renovator, above and beyond the development of their skillset, is the ability to begin to see their house as a knowable, coherent system. Once a person understands this system, they can begin to orchestrate the labor necessary to improve it, even if they do not possess the skills to perform all aspects of this labor themselves.