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Wooden Byobu. From Architectural Façade to Sculpture

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Part of the Lecture Notes in Civil Engineering book series (LNCE,volume 24)


The Japanese Pavilion at EXPO Milano 2015, designed by Atsushi Kitagawara, has been visited by millions of people with a great success, especially for its stunning wooden façade. Its naked structure is defined by only one element, a 12 × 12 cm section, whose larch came from Fukushima region, to show the health of the forest after the terrible Tsunami. The façade was conceived with studs, connected without any screws or nails, thanks to the “compressive-tension” effect, whose concept interprets old Japanese wooden-based techniques of constructions and even handcrafts of complex wooden toys. Analogic mock-ups and parametric models have defined the entire design phase, leading to a simple form as the end of a complex research path. The wooden structure was, then, elaborated and produced through CNC processes, built for EXPO Milano 2015, and dismantled after the event. A new life of this concept is becoming an art object: the Byobu. This is a traditional separating screen in Japanese houses, something that creates space and multiple possibilities. Thus, the structural concept of EXPO Milano 2015 turns into several variations for different places: University Byobu at Politecnico di Milano, Urban Byobu at Farm Cultural Park in Sicily, Forest Byobu at Arte Sella, near Trento, and finally Museum ByobuKigumi Infinity at Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. All these examples leave a memory of a stunning structure, conceived to be temporary for EXPO Milano 2015, now visible in several places between Italy and Japan.


  • Wooden lattice
  • Parametric design
  • Compressive-tension
  • CNC
  • Byobu

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The authors would like to deeply thank all the collaborators, researchers, architects, engineers, designers, and experts that have been involved at different stages of the whole design process, from the earlier conceptual idea to the latest realization. The entire work is the result of an intensive production that last several years and involved design pros in a fruitful cooperation between Italy and Japan.

A special thank goes to Atelier2—Arch. Valentina Gallotti, for the close collaboration with Prof. Marco Imperadori, in supporting and supervising the design and construction processes; to Marco Corbella from Ishimoto Architectural & Engineering Firm, Inc., as a part of the design team; to Galloppini Legnami, for the collaboration in developing details and availability to make the structure reliable for the re-use projects; to the team of Politecnico di Milano—Lecco Campus; to Andrea Bartoli and Florinda Saieva for having embraced and welcome the structure at FARM Cultural Park, and to Emanuele Montibeller and Giacomo Bianchi from Arte Sella, for hosting it in its beautiful landscape; at last, to Mori Art Museum for having recognized the power of the construction and chosen it as the icon of one of its representative exhibition.

In the end, we would like to acknowledge all the graduating students and trainees that have been involved in the development of virtual parametric models and construction of the several mock-ups and samples.

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Correspondence to Marco Imperadori .

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Kitagawara, A., Imperadori, M., Kuwabara, R., Brunone, F., Matsukawa, M. (2019). Wooden Byobu. From Architectural Façade to Sculpture. In: Bianconi, F., Filippucci, M. (eds) Digital Wood Design. Lecture Notes in Civil Engineering, vol 24. Springer, Cham.

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