These six Japanese houses explore different lifestyle concepts in urban and rural settings. The projects present a varying weave of geometries and volumes to cater for a wide range of occupant requirements. Some architectures attain prominence by standing out in their urban environment while others, like Satoshi Okada’s villa in Karuizawa, show their architectural prowess by blending ineffably with their natural surrounds. Here, landscape is harnessed to the poetic use of architectural materials and spaces: a plan with elliptical segments and a Cor-ten roof that canopies over the whole building including the external living areas. Okada succeeds in conceiving nature as part of the built space while at the same time giving full expression to the communicative power of architecture.
Other houses tackle these same themes but within the dense urban context of Japan’s cities. The result is a project rationale that caters for functional demands, small plots and assertive identity.
Jun Aoki’s housing complex with a central court manages to emerge from its context but at the same time fit into it. Simplicity of form and richness of detail make for a restrained refinement. Shigeru Fuse, on the other hand, makes maximum use of a sequence of cantilevered volumes that connect effortlessly with a longitudinal plan. The result is dynamic, luminous, sculptural architecture opening up in many directions. Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham’s Sasao House highlights its asymmetrical form with painted metal cladding at the intersections of the different facades, following through this geometric rigueur into the interiors. Masaki Endoh twists two volumes to create acute angles and elevations facing several directions in the Natural Angles house. The environments of the secluded interior commune, however, only with the aspect they overlook, creating a series of intimate places. The wooden frame Hansha Reflection House by SKLIM architect practice takes its cue from the nearby park, making the exterior vegetation an integral part of the building.House in Abiko - Fuse-atelier
The house stands on a compact site in the dense urban fabric of Abiko. The front faces onto a busy main road while the back of the house overlooks rows of trees and bushes. Shigeru Fuse’s programme makes its mark on the urban landscape. The unusual geometrical form, entirely in bare reinforced concrete, offers occupants many different views onto the surrounding cityscape. Cantilevered volumes create unusual living environments, whose articulated interiors have been conceived to resemble an exhibition gallery more than a home. Polished fair-face concrete interior walls highlight the construction details. Sharp angles and disaggregated shapes mirror external forms and slope of the roof. Two striking cantilevered volumes on the upper level reach out towards the street. They differ in size and shape. One - the living room - has a full-height glazed wall; the other - containing bathrooms - has a windowless back wall embellished on the exterior with scored lines and different material textures. The cantilevered volume facing the back is an extension of the front living area. The building’s interior moves through a series of varying heights. The sequence of interlocking levels creates a multi-facetted setting, enhancing the sculptural quality of the interior. A staircase with black steps standing against a wall, and glazed slits letting in slices of natural light lend a refined elegance. Daylighting and strip lighting off set the striking furniture around which the environments have been created.Maison AoAo - Jun Aoki & Associates
Jun Aoki’s design for Maison AoAo, a residential complex with 15 different-sized units in a suburban district of Tokyo, is one of subdued refinement. Created around a central courtyard, the aluminium-clad reinforced concrete structure conforms to the surrounding buildings in height. It stands apart from its neighbours though, on account of the central opening that interrupts the continuous street façade, the finishes on the elevations, and the emphasis given to the court. Voids are a significant feature of the architectural programme. In the courtyard, they allow architecture and nature to blend, creating a composite urban scene where tiny gardens squeeze between bulky fair-face concrete stairs leading to the upper level. The slender iron bars forming the parapets and railings have been bent into a series of arc shapes. Their delicate open geometry creates a decorative motif that enhances the sense of space. The curved bars also reference the sculptural linked-rings motif repeated across the main façades. The decisive cleavage in the street façade is functional as well as stylistic: it provides an entrance to the court from the road, but also allows air circulation. The same two window types with external aluminium Venetian blinds have been used on both external and internal façades. The elevations differ in their surface finish: smoothed fair-face concrete with brick segments near the smaller windows on the exterior façade, while the internal façades are completely brick clad with fair-faced concrete window recesses.Sasao House - Klein Dytham architecture
Located in a Tokyo suburb amidst a tangle of overhead wires, Sasao House underlines its street corner position with truncated angles and a large entrance to the commercial area of the building. The tight geometrical programme by Klein and Dytham sits well with this building facing the road on three sides. The façades and a steeply sloped roof together form a distinctive, solid block with forceful angles and intersecting lines marking out the different levels.
Despite its limited footprint, this four-storey building houses the Client’s restaurant/bar on the ground floor, living quarters for the Client’s parents on the first floor, and a family apartment on the other storeys. Sasao House stands out from its rather drab surrounds for its luminous painted metal-slab cladding. The lattice pattern on the surface is punctuated at irregular intervals by different-size lights and a central loggia, placed to facilitate natural ventilation. The entrance to the residential part has been discreetly placed on one side and concealed by a grid. The impression is one of overall harmony and restraint. Inside, ceilings and walls are equally luminous, contrasted only by vividly coloured wallpaper on one wall. Its relation to the exterior is, however, ambivalent. The windows, mostly at floor level, give slanting, almost furtive views onto the life of the neighbourhood below while the roof terrace is concealed from view.Natural Angles - edh Endoh design house
The two volumes comprising the residential building known as Natural Angles in the Setagaya district of Tokyo are set at angles to one another, giving the complex a forceful dynamic. The dramatic effect is heightened by the steeply pitched roof and contrasting colour scheme: a black ground-floor block containing the living area, and a white upper-level night zone. Setting the two volumes at skewed angles creates a series of angular spaces, cantilevers and recesses.
The stark geometry is enhanced by windowless elevations on the northeast and southwest. Other walls have mere slits on the ground floor and only four openings – three almost square and one strip window - on the upper floor. The only elevation to have ample glazing is the secluded south wall where the ground-floor living area looks out onto a nearby stream running along the boundary of the plot. Similarly, the upper-level night zone on the same side enjoys a large glazed light giving onto a balcony partly angled toward the west that allows light to penetrate down into the living area below. The luminous finish on many walls and ceilings reflects the changing quality and angle of natural light as the sun moves through the day. The contrast of black and white on the exterior is continued on the inside, especially in the living area.Villa A - Satoshi Okada architects
Designed by Satoshi Okada, this holiday home is located in mountain forests at an altitude of 1 000 metres. The building slips elegantly into its natural setting, following the natural gradient and making the most of the sweeping views. Its softly curved, spindle-shaped plan nestles into the slope. Access to the house is via a top road.
The building’s two storeys stand out distinctly, with different structural frames and elevations. The lower floor, in reinforced concrete, houses the more private areas: two family bedrooms, a guest room, and a library zone, all sequenced according to a rigorously rectangular plan.The ground-floor elevation is in concrete and punctuated by glazed lights the same size as the rooms behind.
The steel frame upper structure houses the living area. Its full-height, full-length glazed façade supported by slender steel posts gives on to a large terrace facing the views beyond, a minimal barrier between inside and out.
The building’s most distinctive feature is the roof: a slab of Cor-ten steel that rises from the east side to spread over the living area like a protective wing, a curving overhang providing a sheltering canopy for the terrace.Hansha Reflection House - studio SKLIM
SKLIM, the Singapore-based architect practice, designed this residence known as the Hansha Reflection House. Abutting onto a park with lake and trees, the wooden frame structure develops longitudinally, its several volumes interlocking in functionally sequential order.
The cantilevered living area on the u pper floor reaches out towards the park, its large asymmetrical picture window protruding into the room. The telescope-effect this produces brings the natural environment right into the room. The building’s compact volume has been “scooped out” to make way for an inner central court around which, on the ground floor, are arranged the bedrooms and meditative spaces like a library lined with dark wood bookshelves.
The upper floor is occupied by the living and communal areas while the steeply pitched roof has been cut away on the park side to make way for a recessed terrace sheltered from view. The white walls and wood cladding of the interiors are conducive to quiet reflection, the double-height library area giving a sense of spatial breadth.