KIWARI 木割 golden ratio in Japanese timber architecture



One of the projects I worked on had a concept inspired by the Japanese shrine architecture. Curious as to what this is, I looked up. Japanese timber architecture used to use a similar system with Golden Ratio in shrine, temple and house architecture. This ratio system was called 'Kiwari' and it was commonly used in the Muromachi Period (1336 - 1573) and through to Edo Period (1603 - 1868). The earliest example of a Kiwari temple is Horyuji Kondo (the main hall of Horyuji temple), completed in 607.

Kiwari is the way to determine the dimensions of the building components with the proportional ratio to another component. The size of the columns and the distance between them were used as the base dimension, and then all the other building components' sizes and positions were defined with the ratio to those two dimensions.

The design based on Kiwari is rational, efficient and it makes constructing a building a lot easier. However, it lacks originality if it is applied to all the buildings. Indeed, the carpenters competed with one another to come up with different techniques and small details that would help add creativity and give the building originality.