And for Lunch…

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An enormous serving of Larch with a side order of glazed curtain wall, glulam posts and a sprinkling of Western Red Cedar joinery, all tastefully garnished with suitably stylish outdoor furniture & some nice grey doors.

How thoroughly civilised!

French motorway services Building with Larch cladding and big glazed curtain walls

It’s a fact that you can’t go for lunch on the motorways in France without digesting a bit of wood cladding.

Ordinarily motorway services are not the first port of call for architectural inspiration of any kind (I have friends who would disagree), but somehow France manages to pull it off. No big deal, just a bit of an overhaul of a 70’s service station. That’s what I love about timber cladding… it’s new clothes for shabby buildings!

No demolition, no mess, no business closure. Just a bit of hoarding, if that… probably more like a couple of step ladders and a traffic cone . That and a few battens, bit of vapour barrier, a pack of strip cladding and Robert’s mon oncle.

French motorway services Building with Larch cladding & western red cedar doorway detail    French motorway services Building with Larch cladding & western red cedar detail    French motorway services Building door detail    French motorway services Building with Larch strip cladding

I’m being a bit simplistic about it, but I don’t think I’m really that far off am I?

I mean, this door detail, for example, looks SO neat, but all it is is some square edge planed all round … I’m going to stick my neck out and say Western Red Cedar because it just doesn’t look so much like Larch to me, but you’ll have to correct me if you think I’m wrong, it’s just more brown than Larch normally comes out… although why they would use WRC when they’ve gone to the bother of getting Larch for the cladding who knows, but then.. does it even matter?

It’s all going to go silver soon anyway and then no-one will tell the difference. So actually, I kind of  like that they haven’t been worried about which species it is.  Anyway.

I know I waffle on so I’ll try to keep words to a minimum… let’s look at pictures instead. There’s one in particular here I LOVE.

Just LOOK at that corner detail with the mitre join!  How to take a simple bit of wood cladding for a low-budget/everyday-people kind of building and elevate it a to something special. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to care. Here the architect/designer cared and the carpenter/fitter cared.  I can’t tell you how long I stood just gazing at that corner detail.

French motorway services Larch cladding and pergola    French motorway services Larch pergola terrace    French motorway services Larch terrace corner detail    French motorway services Building mitred corner detail of rainscreen cladding

I’ve seen another mitred cladding detail* on a private house in Switzerland that did the same thing to me.. I just stood there staring… because they had mitred fresh sawn Larch featheredge!

Cladding doesn’t really get more basic or traditional than fresh sawn featheredge and yet because of that mitre (not only the mitre obviously but you’ll see what I mean if you click here) the house looks sharp, clean and modern.

I wish all cladding could be fresh sawn really, but I know it just doesn’t work for every project… but it is definitely not reaching it’s full potential as a solution for ‘clothing’ a building.

Maybe it’s not accessible enough? Perhaps timber suppliers don’t help. Maybe we’re not providing enough concrete information about the how, what, when & where to actually use it? I’m open to feedback here people.

French motorway services Building with rainscreen cladding

This is a crazy, eye boggling picture I know (my annoying camera’s done a terrible job of capturing – a Canon g9 cannot take a straight line!) but I thought we needed a close up of the stuff to show how much of a gap there is. Also to show the black building paper/vapour barrier behind – a detail in itself? – which helps accentuate the gap. It wouldn’t be the same if it was white would it?

And look what I found lying around on the ground!

French motorway services Building with Larch cladding. detail of cladding section

Proof. The real life section. A scrap from the not-quite-finished-yet building. Neat huh? I estimate ex 54 x 54mm, interestingly with a shallow chamfer for the front face and a radius (or eased edges.. don’t you love that term?) on the two back edges. Not sure what they’re for, possibly to stop the wood splitting out down the grain? But now I come to think about it… it probably means that water can’t hang on those edges either. Or you wouldn’t get as many splinters in your hands maybe?

Hmmmm… got to ponder that some more. I’m sure a joiner will tell me.

MORE about stuff

*Family House, Berg, Switzerlan by Steinmann & Schmid

Mon Oncle – Jacques Tati…  watch it. That’s all I’m going to say. ok.. here’s scene to whet your appetite best film poster ever!




Posted on January 16th 2013 under air dried timber, cladding timber, fresh sawn timber, landscaping timber. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  • Posted February 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I’m thinking if you start at the top with stainless nails, you could nail through the underside by hand or better still a 2nd fix nail gun. The nail gun might be more difficult to knock the heads in, though. In answer to your question about why timber cladding isn’t used more widely, I’d say it’s simple – cost! My 2m x 2m louvres are going to cost £150 each just for the timber, before machining and fixing. Compare that to block and render or even brick, and timber is way more. Sad, but true. That, and you need a local supplier and there aren’t many around. By the way, I clicked ‘Notify me of follow-up comments by email’ but didn’t get your reply. A glitch in the matrix?

  • Posted January 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Hi Ben, Thanks for writing!
    You know I am currently baffled by the fixings. It’s definitely not face fix, obviously. It could have been secret nailed/screwed as I saw them half way through doing the job and the guys were definitely fixing one strip at a time.. not panelled.. but for section not to split out it would have to be a deep fixing. I can’t see any’special’ backfixing type system in there either. Baffled. I’ll have to go back and find out…. P.S. get those louvres made!

  • Posted January 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this. Nice building. It’s reminded me about a project I started and never finished, to make louvre panels out of western red cedar. I’ve got the wood, but don’t have a saw big enough to cut the 200+ louvres I need! I have an idea about the ‘eased edges’. What you’re looking at is a bit of off-the-shelf 4 x 2 cut lengthways at a slight angle – simple! By the way, how’s it fixed? Can’t see any nail/ screw heads. Any ideas?