This two-story combined residence and shop occupies a long, thin lot. On the first floor is the shop and on the second is a single large room extending the length of the structure; the entrance to both is on the first floor street side. Four boxes constructed from flooring and milky white shoji (Japanese paper screens) float in the open living space on the second floor. The boxes are both mounted on and suspended from the flooring, enwrapping and enclosing it simultaneously.
A dim glow filters through the screens, filling the boxes with indirect light and allowing the family members to sense one another’s presence through the play of light and shadow even when each is cloistered in his or her own box. The flooring of the boxes, meanwhile, provides key structural support, enabling the architects to minimize the thickness of the external walls and manipulate the other walls and ceilings with a high degree of freedom.
A box suspended from the flooring
The architect’s unusual decision to include two staircases in a home whose frontage measures just three meters (inner width) has the counterintuitive effect of eliminating the sense, both visual and kinesthetic, that one is hemmed into a dead-end space.
Architect Makiko Tsukada answered some questions about the project.
Seen from stairs 2
How does the completed building compare to the project as designed? Were there any dramatic changes between the two and/or lessons learned during construction?
After I finished the basic design, I showed the client a model and explained that I was aiming for an image of lanterns hanging in a narrow alley-like space, with the four boxes as the lanterns and the two long walls on either side finished in a rough black material to evoke the outside. The clients responded by saying they wanted a bright house so white walls would be preferable. That baffled me at first because they must have known when they came to me that none of my previous projects used white or neutral colors. But I ended up trusting in the fact that architecture doesn’t lose its power based on its color, and decided to go along with the client’s request. The finished product evokes the feeling of hovering in a snowy field and glimpsing the sky through the gaps between the boxes. You forget that you’re in the city, and I think it’s a fun space for the clients to live in. Also, because everything is made out of different textures of white, the division between objects becomes ambiguous and there’s a sense that the space goes on forever.
How does the building compare to other projects in your office, be it the same or other building types?
It’s different in terms of the textures and colors used on both the exterior and interior. It’s similar in that it includes a large open space. Another point in common with other projects is that I tried to take full advantage of the building site’s unique character, and that played a strong role in determining the design of the structure as a whole.
What did you learn from this project? What will you take from it to future projects?
This type of exceedingly long, narrow lot that’s almost like a crevice between two buildings is not at all unusual in Japan’s shopping districts. This project was a good opportunity for me to think about what sort of architecture should be slipped into these lots. Certain things in the design may have arisen from the context of this particular place, but that doesn’t mean those elements have to end with this project. I’m hoping to put what I developed here to use as I deal with the relationship between architecture and urban or natural environments again in the future.
E-Mail Interview conducted by Yuko Machida