Why wood – A lesson from ancient history

“Wood is universally beautiful to man. It is the most humanly intimate of all materials.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

India is blessed with a rich architectural history. One of the most important chapters in its history is its awe-inspiring wooden architecture. From traditional wooden temples in Western Himalayas to beautiful wooden structures in Kerala, all of them have been built years ago, but they still stand strong.

Skilled artisans from the olden times treated wood as a prized raw material. They shaped wood to narrate stories through intricate designs and turn a humble block of wood into a fine piece of art. The Indian history celebrates these traditional structures, and the present generation is working hard towards keeping them safe. For example, The Padmanabhapuram Palace in Kerala is one of the oldest surviving examples in Asia. Built in the year 1590, this palace is renowned for its ingenious building techniques, excellent craftsmanship, royal ambience, and beautiful murals. Age-old structures like these need to be cared for by reviewing the quality of wood and analysing its damages periodically. As suggested by experts, major issues can be repaired by introducing a replacement of the same species in the affected section. In case of concerns like a termite attack, one can fix it by utilising epoxy resins, clove oil or tobacco juice.

Similarly, the ancient Hadimba temple, a four-storied wooden temple, was built around 1553. This ancient temple faces extreme snowfall for more than four months a year, and still, the wooden structure stands unaffected. Apart from minor reconstruction work, this age-old temple is still standing strong for more than four centuries.

The Alchi Gompa in Leh is considered to be one of the oldest forms of wooden architecture. The five shrines in this temple were built over the period of two centuries. The structure of the porch and the carvings truly stand out and have been minimally affected by the extreme climate of the region. In addition to these old wooden structures, there are states in India where wood is exclusively used for its natural benefits. In Sikkim, small non-engineered homes called as Ikra are built with wood due to its natural advantages like lightweight, easy availability, and safety during earthquakes. Beautiful wooden homes in Leh are the ultimate choice for the cold, dry weather, as they consist of natural thermal properties.

In this ever-evolving world, where open spaces are being transformed into concrete jungles, the essence of nature is slowly diminishing. Learning from these ancient wooden architectures, one can infer that wood is timeless and it will always benefit the environment, the society, and the consumer. Hence, there are young architects that understand the environmental, structural and functional benefits of wood and encourage the utilisation of wood in urban/rural spaces.

If you are looking for different wood species for your next project, do take a look at our special wood species and their various applications.

FII India, funded by the government of British Columbia (B.C.), Canada represents Canadian wood in India for all its five species viz. Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir, Yellow Cedar, Western Red Cedar and Spruce-Pine-Fir (SPF). FII works closely with architects, manufacturers, importers and real estate developers to provide technical and procurement assistance for their requirements free of any cost

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