News from the Roofing World: How Long it Takes to Become a Japanese Roofer07.25.2013
I recently came across a piece of information demonstrating how really authentic traditional architecture can be preserved carefully (and with a touch of soul) far beyond the borders of its homeland.
Shofuso Japanese House and Garden - a traditional-style Japanese house with a nationally-ranked garden - was built in Japan in 1953, using traditional techniques and materials. It was first exhibited in the courtyard at New York's Museum of Modern Art and then, in 1958, moved to Philadelphia. In 1999, the Shofuso administration raised $1.2 million (not a bad budget I would say) to replace the hinoki roof of Shofuso, the only one of its kind outside Japan.
Since the house is constructed mostly of thin strips of hinoki bark harvested from old-growth cypress trees in Japan, planning and preparing the job - including stripping, splitting and cutting the bark - took place over a period of several years. The bark was then packed in great steel containers and shipped to the US. The thin, cypress-wood shingles covering part of the Japanese House roof are made from wood harvested from the lower portions of the trees, with the knots being carefully sheared away.
Renovation of this unique structure, performed in the same manner that temples and tea houses have been rejuvenated and repaired for centuries, required skilled roofers. A team of eight Japanese craftsmen, vastly experienced in the ways of traditional roofing, was invited to participate. There are only about 150 roofers in all of Japan trained and licensed to handle hinoki-bark roofs. As with most things in Japan, it’s a kind of philosophy – understanding the essence of hinoki cypress wood, fine-grained and pure, and the nature and personality of the tools - the knife and hammer. "They train for five years," says Geoffrey P. Moussas, an American architect employed by the Kyoto-based firm which undertook the overall renovations, who has now been living in Japan for several years. "In the first year, they learn how to care for the tools, perform menial tasks, everything that has to be done throughout the day. Sometimes they live in dorms, sometimes at home. They learn what it means to work within the group, the group mentality. They go to school for two years to learn various types of roofing, to learn how to work with bark and shingles. But even then they are not yet professionals. It really takes about 10 years to become a roofer".
Mostly, the workers simply worked: they were on the job virtually all the time, with a day off just every two weeks. For them, this isn't work - it's their life. For this reason, the job proceeded at a thunderous pace. Not only was no time wasted, nor were any of the materials: a pile of bark from the old roof was salvaged for use on the new one; the metal sheets used to prevent drips were cut in such a way as to keep wastage to an absolute minimum.
Needless to say, such jobs - especially on roofs of tradition - leave a deep impression, inspiring you to invest not merely your energy but also your heart. And I'm especially proud of the fact that Dakea now has something special to offer roofs with a history - the Dakea Better Vintage conservation roof window.