IN JAPAN, THERE is an ancient woodworking technique called Jigoku-gumi, which literally means: ‘interlocking hell’. This fearsome name derives not only from the complexity and difficulty of using the technique, but also from the knowledge that it is almost impossible to take the structure apart, once it has been put together.
The craft of Jigoku-gumi involves joining individually shaped wooden laths without nails or glue. Two layers of narrow laths overlap each other and are secured systematically with a third layer, until the whole thing acts as a cohesive structure. Kengo Kuma describes this as ‘the essence of Japanese architecture’ and likens it to weaving or knitting.
In the wealthy suburb of Aoyama in Tokyo, Kengo Kuma Associates has rekindled, updated and taken the old construction tradition to impressive new heights for a Taiwanese patisserie that specialises in pineapple cakes. The concept of the patisserie is as unusual as the building: the staff invites passers-by for a free cup of tea and cake. If the customers appreciate the experience, thewy are welcome to buy a cake. Kengo Kuma liked the concept and did his to add to the experience.«