Chris in front of the newly installed Tenshin-en gate at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Chris in front of the newly installed Tenshin-en gate at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

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東 Azuma Design Build 東

Chris Hall is a designer, joiner, furniture maker and builder of timber-framed natural buildings. A youth spent working on wooden boat interiors, tinkering with old sports cars, and working construction in the resort town of Whistler, British Columbia were preparatory steps. Reading Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in his teens established Chris's approach to making early on: a fastidious attention to detail extending to every aspect of a project, even those areas not seen by others.

A 5-year stint living in rural parts of Japan opened Chris's eyes to the beauty of refined - and elegant, and powerful - timber buildings constructed with meticulous attention to detail and in honor of centuries-old tradition. This period led to a strong appreciation for the beauty of cleanly planed - not sanded - wood as a medium of expression, and an insight into how such a material, along with stone, clay, and straw, can be combined and arranged to form spaces which sooth the soul and frame the surroundings with great sensitivity. Chris began a period of self-study in traditional carpentry that has been unremitting and continues to this day.

Chris also worked as a helper to the Japanese swordsmith Watanabe in Hokkaidō for several months. Working to build a new forge in the city of Date, swinging a sledge hammer to assist the master, and spending innumerable hours hunched over chopping charcoal in very specific ways led to an appreciation for how deep the depth of knowledge can be in a traditional art, a well so deep that one wonders if indeed it is bottomless.

Returning to British Columbia in the last 1990's, Chris entered into full time work for a Japanese-owned log and timber house building company. After more timber-frame work with other companies and participation in Timber Framing Guild courses, he became a presenter on Japanese carpentry techniques at Guild conferences. Ultimately this led to employment in Northern California in traditional Japanese house construction, working on the expansive residential compound of silicon valley entrepreneur Larry Ellison's, some dozen Japanese structures. Chris concluded his period of work on that mega-project as a project supervisor for the gate house.

By 2005, Chris was extending his study and practice to French 19th century carpentry drawing methods and was becoming aware of, and strongly influenced by, classical Chinese Ming furniture. Numerous furniture commissions followed, all pieces featuring solid wood, all-joined construction without the use of metal fasteners - or even glue in most cases.

In 2008, Chris moved to Massachusetts and established Azuma Design Build. 'Azuma', , is a Japanese word meaning 'Eastern'. Since then, Chris has performed work for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Boston Children's Museum, New York City-based artist Jeff Koons, and has made furniture and provided design consultation for clients across the United States and Canada.

Chris leads workshops, lectures on woodworking and architecture, writes and illustrates "The Art of Japanese Carpentry Drawing" essay series, now stretching past 1000 pages, and created the Craftsmanship in Wood Online Forum, which includes project-based carpentry study material. He is also the writer of the well-visited blog on traditional building and woodwork "The Carpentry Way", which receives about 25,000 page views per month.