Riff: about Tsuchida Cottage construction + vids

A few notes originally written to a friend as a letter in Feb 2021 riffing about the “Tsuchida Cottage” (soon to be “Station”) construction project.

Sharing here for my own posterity and remembrance, along with this video of the “wall raising” day (which also included the roof which you can see in this amusing time lapse video).

^ Above: quick video of workers pounding the wall joints together, March 2021

Riff: Notes from Tsuchida Cottage (soon to be “Station” as  the house is long and narrow and feels like a train so this is new “working title”)

Our construction project has started, 2 diligent sturdy men who are much older than you and I (likely), doing incredibly efficient rapid hard work with vigour and precision.

We set up a tea/coffee/snack station inside the house and another one outside, we took gifts to the neighbours in advance of the noise. We insisted, they refused, we pleaded, back and forth… 

The workers, fuelled by french press, gladly did an extra job since they had their adorably sized front loader & moved a bunch of boulders to fill in a retaining wall/drainage ditch without any complaint. A huge help as doing it with a tripod, pulley and a hand wheel dolly means three rocks is a hard afternoon. We gave them extra cakes for this. (there is a time lapse of doing a session last year with my tiny mother in law and pregoo wife, not a sturdy crew). 

When the HVAC man came to discuss the heat pump units (it’s an old house in Japan so no central heating of course and no insulation and a few rooms have these individual heat pumps which are heaters and coolers…) Anyway, told him I want one in my old grain barn which baffled him. {Keep in mind, each of these planning appointments requires all the formalities and tea service with a special cups and the correct “special” snacks etc.} Note: This gentleman has a slightly-dyed red toupee – still trying to hold onto his youthful style.

So I took him out to the barn/studio, up the stairs into the secret lounge and his jaw just about dropped when he saw my Clash London calling poster, stacks of records, 100 pound record player with an iron exoskeleton, a couple of lounge chairs, (he did not grok the exceptional collection of beat literature but that’s coming in handy for a Kerouac exhibition later this year etc. He *then* understood why this is needed/ wanted. But he wanted to put the unit on the wall which outside is the *perfectly preserved unblemished yakisugi wall* (I’ve sent along a photo in the past) but I explained that “the ancestors have somehow passed this barn down to my caretaking and this is aesthetic blunder is unacceptable so we’re going to have to put it here in this corner where no one can see it.”

He told me i have an old Japanese heart and as such, we will attach it to a beam that is prob older than the City of Seattle (colonially speaking) which is joined to the other beams without use of nails and screws so well, it’s not perfect but I will have a humidity control and heat pump and an olden barn to protect a lifetime’s worth of *valuable* books, records and papers.

I then asked him if the heat pump unit comes in something other than white, it turns out they also come in “off-white”. We looked at the catalog of all the different models and it was like the scene and lost in translation with Bill and Scarlet are looking at the menu of all the different kinds of meat and to the untrained eye, they all look the same. The catalog was 30+ pages of air conditioners that looked exactly the same – “The features were different” I was assured. I asked “don’t they come in brown or black?” But alas… not. I also asked if there was one with “a remote control that had less than 35 buttons” on it like maybe five buttons(?) but no, there are so many features but I want an on/off and a temperature control because I am a simple man. But robots win again. 

Anyway, here we are, doing a construction project and it is *completely different* than your construction project where everything picked with intention and care and custom made into a lovely glorious architectural masterpiece. 

In our case, we are adding to the tradition of houses in the generations before, and digging out some old pieces (for example a couple of 1920 era sliding doors for the entranceway), finding a few things at secondhand stores (for example a stainless steel sink/counter which will be the wife’s plant potting station), sourced a potbelly cast-iron stove which brought oooohs & ahhhs from the Japanese architect, scored several furniture pieces including a ultra heavy grand table from secondhand stores and brought down the total price of the project from equivalent of maybe 130,000 to about 90,000 with various resourcefulness (using numbers somewhere between CAD and USD as i can’t get my head around the flucuations). 

Told him we didn’t require television cable outlets, various other knickknacks and accoutrements. The kitchen will be more spacious but simple, not a bunch of fancy cabinets and a three burner stove (an upgrade from our two burner which reminds me of living in my Volkswagen van). Oh and a 2 part sink which was a shocking idea to Japan and required sourcing. I explained i need the space for dishes and space for making pickles – then i seemed brilliant.

Dream is Ichiro will come home with his pals and our house will be the “hangout” – with this in mind, also adding a handwash station right by entrance in a stroke of brilliance and a side access door for muddy kids and their gear. 

Bonus: for enthusiasts, a “slow” version of the time lapse video of wall and roof raising

Whatcha think?