The site for this project was located on a riverbank in a suburban residential area outside Tokyo. Surrounded by landscaped paths lined with cherry trees and small red bridges, the site features a community bus stop at one corner that makes an appearance in Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film “The Secret World of Arrietty”.
Our client was a novelist who commissioned us to build an isolated house tucked away in a quiet spot and surrounded by verdant plants and greenery, much like the one that appears in Victor Erice’s film “The Spirit of the Beehive”. Erice’s film depicts, through the eyes of a little girl, a quivering, sensuous world where the wind gently caresses your face, where one feels a keen sense of connection to the things around you, harboring both curiosity and terror towards all these animals and plants – in short, one of the universal experiences of childhood.
For this project, we conceived of a house that would dissolve easily into its surroundings, with the river and the cherry trees in the background, just as if it had been there from the very beginning. However, the plot area of 165 sqm was simply too small to accommodate the quiet, isolated home that the owner envisioned. In order to reduce the sense of oppressiveness that the house might project for people walking along the green paths just adjacent to it, we appended two right-angled corners onto the trapezoid-shaped site and created a sloping, cross-shaped roof, as well as a cross-shaped floor plan. The result was an architectural volume that morphs into a line, rather than presenting a “face”, at the point where it comes closest to the landscaped walkway. The sloping surfaces of the low-pitched, cross-shaped roof come into contact with the façade of the house on all four sides, allowing us to do away with long vertical walls.
At the same time, the house encloses four inner courtyards for the private enjoyment of the residents, while also offering up four outer courtyards to the external surroundings. By installing windows only around the four inner courtyards, we were able to ensure privacy in the face of an environment with an endless stream of passersby, while also bringing light and air into the interior. This indoor space, in which light was carefully focused and targeted, allows the inhabitants to circulate freely within. Windows oriented in various directions give the residents the opportunity to enjoy several different views of the courtyards, and the movement of sunlight as it shifts from one place to the next.