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Duogong: Simple and Effective

Alice-India Garwood
by Alice-India Garwood on January 15, 2019

Hundreds of years old and still standing strong, this incredible innovation is one that could serve the future of sustainable construction. Duogong is the nail and glue free construction method that is both intricate and earthquake proof. Beautiful as well as durable. Essentially this is a very old and very strong bracket with incredible detailing.

Duogong loosely translates to wooden block and wooden bracket. And that’s exactly what it is. These multi duogong bracket buildings are held in place by the weight of the structure itself, the roof pushing the components together.

In a similar way to a dome, these structures then have incredible tensile strength. Depending on how much weight is being placed on top of the brackets there are roughly 30 variations to how you might layer the duogong. This style of architecture is a signature of Chinese and East Asian culture. The careful balance and use of interlocking pieces is what creates the intricate and powerful designs.

Duogong, Bobtrade, Innovation, History, Brackets, Construction, Building, Supplies, Materials[Photo Credit: Core77]

Legend has it, that the trend started when the Emperor at the time ordered his Eunuch to design towers that were both beautiful and super strong. To inspire envy and strike fear in to the Emperor's enemies.

"Legend has it, that the trend started when the Emperor at the time ordered his Eunuch to design towers that were both beautiful and super strong."

The Eunuch’s designs were rejected one after the other by the Emperor who declared that if he did not come up with a good enough design by the next day he would be executed. To soothe himself the Eunuch designed a cage for his birds to take his mind off his terrible fate. In the morning, when the Emperor demanded to see the Eunuch’s final design, the Emperor saw the birdcage and was overjoyed with it.

And so, the Eunuch’s life was spared and the face of Chinese architecture was changed forever. Or so legend has it.

Duogong, Bobtrade, Innovation, History, Brackets, Construction, Building, Supplies, Materials[Photo Credit: Simplicity Relished]

The reality is more likely to be that hundreds of years of careful study of geometry and construction meant that the Chinese were able to create buildings that were both attractive and structurally very sturdy.

"In reality it is more likely that after hundreds of years of careful study the Chinese were able to create buildings to be both attractive and sturdy."

Though this method is many hundreds of years old, there is now a resurgence in the style. 

There are many examples of contemporary duogong structures across East Asia. The most notable of these comes from Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

Kuma has used the duogong style for two of his most recent high profile projects including the Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum and Café Kureon.

Duogong, Bobtrade, Innovation, History, Brackets, Construction, Building, Supplies, Materials[Photo Credit: Pinterest]

Not only Kuma but Jean Weng, lead architect of Woods Bagot, has been working on a design known as the Duogong Tower.

"Jean Weng, lead architect of Woods Bagot, has been working on a design known as the Duogong Tower."

Duogong Tower is a 590ft tower in Beijing made up of interlocking angular pieces, mirroring the iconic duogong style.

Is this the future of sustainable, durable construction? Could we start seeing more DIY projects in this style in the west? With the construction industry always on the lookout for new and innovative ways of doing things, we’re not shy to look to the past for the future of construction.

AUTHOR
Alice-India Garwood

Alice-India Garwood

Content Marketing Executive at Bobtrade. Interested in design, sustainability and the history of construction. I love all things indie and theatrical.