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Exploring Meranti Wood's Role in Traditional Asian Architecture and Design

Timber Knowledge
18 July 2023 min read

Exploring Meranti Wood's Role in Traditional Asian Architecture and Design

Meranti is a type of wood that has been used for centuries in Asia for building temples, shrines, and other religious structures. It’s a hardwood, and its durability and versatility make it a popular choice for speciality buildings, flooring, and furniture. 

This article will delve deeper into how Meranti wood has played a significant role in traditional Asian architecture and design.


Origins and Characteristics of Meranti Wood

Meranti comes from several tree species of Shorea, which grow mainly in tropical Asia and the Pacific region. It has a straight grain and medium-to-coarse texture, with a light reddish-brown to dark red-brown hue or yellowish-brown when freshly cut but darkens with age and exposure to sunlight.

It has a moderately high strength and stiffness, making it a reliable material for structural framing, decking, and exterior cladding. Due to its density, Meranti is comparatively easy to work with compared to other hardwoods.


Meranti Wood's Role in Traditional Asian Architecture and Design

Traditional Asian architecture relies heavily on Meranti wood, given its strength and availability. Meranti has been a significant resource in Asian architecture for many years. The wood has long been used in building temples, pagodas, and shrines throughout Southeast Asia. It's especially prevalent in regions where the trees naturally grow, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Ultimately, its availability and durability have made it a popular choice for various construction projects. 

However, while it’s a common material, Meranti is not the only wood used in Asian architecture. Many types of wood, including teak, cedar, and bamboo, are important and widely used in other regions and architectural styles across Asia.

In Thailand, Meranti wood is used to construct numerous Buddhist temples and palaces. The Dusit Palace, one of Bangkok's most important landmarks, has retained Meranti wood frames, doors, and windows since it was built in 1903. 

In Indonesia, Meranti is used to make traditional wooden houses known as Rumah Adat, commonly found in Java and Kalimantan. Rumah Adat is built on stilts, and the Meranti wood frames are intricately carved with traditional designs and motifs depicting stories from folklore, myths, and legends.


Meranti Wood's Role in Traditional Asian Architecture Compared to Other Woods

Meranti's diverse range of colours and grains, from light to dark red, offers additional aesthetic versatility, adding to its appeal. Its resilience to local weather conditions further solidifies the wood’s place in constructing and preserving historic and new Asian architectural marvels.

Further, Meranti is often chosen over other local woods, such as teak or rubberwood, due to its affordability and ready availability. Traditionally used in house posts, window and door frames, and rafters, Meranti has become synonymous with iconic structures like the stilt houses of Malaysia and Indonesia. Its adaptability and workability have ensured its continued use in the modern era, helping to uphold architectural traditions while meeting contemporary demands.


Modern Applications of Meranti Wood

Meranti has evolved into modern building material for various innovative applications beyond traditional Asian structures. The wood's strength and rigidity make it an appropriate material for kiln-dried TR26 timber roof trusses, window frames, and doors. 

Further, Meranti's aesthetic qualities make it an ideal material for flooring options such as parquet, plank floors, and engineered click-lock flooring. This is because it's versatile and can be used to build stairs, balconies, and decks, providing a natural and stylish look.


1. Meranti Wood in Construction Industry

Meranti wood has taken a firm foothold in the construction industry, not just for its aesthetic value. In modern construction, Meranti is often used in structural applications, from load-bearing structures to roof trusses. This is primarily due to its strength-to-weight ratio, making it a lightweight yet incredibly strong option for modern buildings. 


2. Meranti for Home Interiors

Its appealing grain patterns and warm hues make Meranti a popular choice for home interiors. From elegant wall panelling to bespoke cabinetry, this wood's versatility extends beyond flooring and traditional furniture. Its even grain and the ability to take well to stains, oils, and varnishes allow Meranti to complement a range of interior design styles, from rustic charm to sleek contemporary spaces. 


3. Outdoor Structures and Meranti Wood

Meranti has gained popularity in outdoor applications, too. From decking to fencing, outdoor furniture to garden sheds, the wood’s good resistance to humidity and moisture means it holds well in outdoor environments. Plus, with the appropriate treatment, it can withstand the elements even better, boosting its durability and lifespan. 


4. Meranti Wood in the Marine Industry

Given its moisture resistance, it's no surprise that Meranti wood has found extensive use in the marine industry. From small personal crafts to larger commercial vessels, Meranti's inherent durability and good resistance to water have made it a favourite. It's particularly preferred for constructing boat hulls, decks, and other marine structures. 


5. Meranti Wood in Musical Instruments

The wood’s unique tonal characteristics have also found favour in the music world. Luthiers, who craft stringed instruments, appreciate Meranti's balance of strength and flexibility and its acoustic properties, making it a suitable choice for the bodies of guitars, violins, and other stringed instruments. 


6. Meranti Wood in Art and Sculpture

Finally, the art world has also embraced Meranti. Sculptors often choose this hardwood for its ease of working, uniform texture, and ability to hold fine detail. Carvers and turners appreciate the smooth, clean cuts that Meranti yields, making it ideal for intricate artistic works.

To sum up, Meranti wood's adaptability has allowed it to move beyond traditional applications, finding a home in many modern uses worldwide. Its versatility, responsible harvesting, and sustainable practices mean that Meranti will likely continue to play a significant role in construction, manufacturing, and artisanal crafts for years to come.


High-quality Wood From Woodshop Direct

Meranti wood's role in traditional Asian architecture and design cannot be overstated. Its durability and strength make it a valuable and reliable building material. The wood continues to be an essential building block for religious and cultural structures, with its distinctive beauty and elegant texture.

Further, Meranti's versatility and modern applications show that it’s a material that will continue to be relevant and sought after in the building and construction industry. 

So, whether you are building a traditional wooden house, constructing a contemporary building, or looking for flooring options, Meranti wood's timeless beauty and durability make it an excellent choice.