Minka House

North gable of the Minka House in the Bamboo Garden

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

In February 2001 the McCurdy team were called in by Kew to assess, repair and erect a Japanese “Minka” House. In addition to woodworking expertise the project required thatching, mud walling and earth flooring The timber-framed structure was in a container, onboard a ship and bound for Southampton Docks having been dismantled at its original site near the city of Okazaki on the southern coast of central Japan. The Minka house was the centrepiece of Japan 2001 in the UK, under the auspices of which many events were held around the UK celebrating Japanese culture and the links between Japan and Britain.

North gable and West elevation

Minka houses were the standard dwellings for most ordinary Japanese people until the mid twentieth century. Japanese friends have advised us that the word Minka means “folk” as in vernacular house. The Minka of Japan vary from region to region and from mountain to plain. The project was jointly organised by of RBG Kew and the Japan Minka Re-use and Recycle Association (JAMRA).

South Gable

On the frame’s arrival at Kew, Peter McCurdy set about the task of sorting through the many timbers and analysing them. Work began on the repairs to the timber frame that were required prior to the erection of the building by the McCurdy team. When the site had been prepared the timbers were taken from a temporary workshop at Kew to the site in Kew’s Bamboo Garden and the erection process began. The McCurdy team was joined for eight days by a master carpenter and his assistant from Japan and worked jointly with them on the erection of the frame. The two professional Japanese carpenters were accompanied by a small band of JAMRA members who also assisted in the work. All of us who shared in the experience enjoyed it immensely and were reminded of the true understanding that exists between crafts people even without a common language.

Verge detail, showing pole rafters, bamboo battens and thatch
On the veranda, North East corner
Internal roof structure