Suzu: architecture conceived from sound to reach a healthy and quiet place to live
SUZU is a residential project in Kyoto, Japan that consisted of the renovation of two houses that co-habit the same plot of land though more than seven decades exists between their architectural styles and construction methods.
Both houses share the same entrance from the street and an internal garden typical of Kyoto’s town houses known as a tsuboniwa. The street access is narrow, lined up with traditional houses of the turn of the 20th century. In this project, conservation was a top priority, due to the lack of preservation guidelines for this traditional Japanese architecture.
The program of the project consisted of designing 3 separate living spaces out of the two houses. The space on the ground floor of the north house, just by the street entrance required a more flexible program, a semi-public space, a space for multiple use, as office, atelier, gallery space and for private living quarters. The north house was separated into ground floor and second floor as 2 flats having separate entrances.
The south house at the back of the plot was kept as a single separate dwelling having 2 bedrooms on the second floor and an open kitchen, living dining on the first floor, with a small terrace connecting to the garden. The access to the south house and north house second floor is through the interior double height, long corridor which also leads to the garden. The garden separates the properties visually and harmonically.
The project was conceived using two primordial methods: Tone Architecture which means, architecture conceived from sound, from the search and retrieving of the space-tonality which already lives in the materiality of the building. The tones from the existing materiality of the building are extracted in different frequencies equivalent to musical notes which give light to the new architecture, turning the project into a latent sound-silence composition.
The aim of applying Building Biology principals in the project is to create healthy architecture and living environments free of toxic indoor air, all PVCs, asphalts, tap-water pollutants, and hazards posed by electromagnetic radiation.
Suzu house a “Machiya” or traditional town house, composed of a wooden structure, earthen walls, tatami flooring and baked tile roofs. The wood that was dismantled from the house was reused in the manufacture of furniture for the north house. Removal of existing columns and beams were used in new locations. Rolled glass panes of the time were also used for windows and doors instead of the typical sliding paper doors.
The landscape design was conceived entirely new only keeping the square meters of the existing tusuboniwa, the 90-year-old pine and the re use of the ancient boulders. The slide is a new playful addition to the triple height space of the interior corridor where the 1920’s kitchen used to be. The slide starts at a height of three meters and the ride ends at a longitude of 5 meters. Without a doubt, a daily exhilarating experience for the second-floor dwellers.
The main facade was in a general good condition. The restoration consisted of repairing the shikui finish of the earthen walls taking special care of the existing light-yellow tone. Some of the ceramic roof tiles had to be reattached using a traditional technique with wet clay and straw. The original copper pipes and rain drainages where repaired wherever needed avoiding PVC piping.
Traditional wood assemblage techniques were used for 3 of the 4 existing columns which were damaged from water and/or termites. These wood working techniques are usually passed down from generation to generation but now a days there are only few skilled carpenters able to do them due to the high volume of prefab housing.
One of the main priorities for the project was to introduce as much as possible natural light. On both floors the existing windows face north (Street side) and south (garden side) through which sun rays penetrate the house in the wintertime only. To the east side there are no openings though on both floors sliding glass doors were introduced to get ventilation and light coming from the interior corridor which has a window to the south and an existing skylight also facing to the southern sky. To the west two small new opening where possible to construct between the structural columns and cross brace. These opening allow for the kitchens’ ventilation and beautiful wind coming from the northwest side of Kyoto as well as the setting sun rays which weave themselves lightly into the interior all year round.
From the first sketch ideas of the project north house’s second floor was envisioned with a new skylight opening creating a double height and exposing the marvellous wooden beams of the roof’s structure. Thus, the red space was created letting southern light come into the room and play with the red prism; creating a sort of analogue clock with the sun rays washing over the walls throughout the day. The red becomes orange in the morning, going back to bright red at noon and turning into a dark deep red in the evening.
A skylight in the south house was also added to make a dialogue with the north house. It provides natural light all the way to the first floor. The prism created for the skylight was painted with a different colours on each side to capture each orientation’s light qualities. East-Yellow, West-Pink, North-blue and South-White. The painting technique was quite experimental. Japanese pigments with no liquid medium were brushed onto the surface in a pastel colour drawing manner.
All the stones and rocks of the property where re used and often times relocated. Granite stones are commonly used for entrance areas as steppingstones, garden and also used for foundation base.
Cecilia Ramírez Corzo
Consulting Architect: At Space Architects; Construction Management: Cecilia Ramirez Corzo & Minami Maiko; Head Carpenters: Isamu Hanato & Kaiji Hachiman; Building Biology consultant: Bonbonma Architecture; Gardener: Kyoniwa Narui
Carpentry work; Ueno construction shop, Hanato construction shop, Hachiman Kaiji, Shinsho construction shop, NAKAI construction shop; Timber supplier: Yasuda Lumber; Plasterer, Tile construction: Naito plasterer, Shimazaki tile; Electricity and air conditioning equipment construction: Nakamura Denko; Wooden fitting work: Woodwork Co., Ltd.; Interior work: Tamagawa Interior Service Co., Ltd.; Tatami work: Nishiwaki tatami rug store; Metal work: Kataoka Iron Works.
Bonbonma Architecture is a creative enticing office and hands on research workshop working internationally with its headquarters in Kyoto, Japan. The creative director of the studio is architect Cecilia Ramirez Corzo an Architectural Association School of Architecture graduate (2006) in London.
Process and play are at the core of its creations as well as research through making and hands on experimentation. Sound and silence are the key etheric elements for the overall conception of each project; thus, making Tone-Architecture: Architecture born out of sound, architecture made out of tones. It also incorporates Building Biology methods: is not just considered but it is an intrinsic part of the thought, design and construction process. Thus, paying special attention to the well-being of all the people involved in the discipline, from manufacturers, to constructors to dwellers, creators, crafts, technicians and artists as well as the impact that architecture has on the planet.