Residential Architecture in Japan

Residential Property in Japan, Contemporary Japanese Houses, Building Design, Homes

Residential Architecture in Japan : New Japanese Houses

Contemporary Property – article for e-architect by Carlos M Teixeira, Architect

4 Dec 2012

Residential Property in Japan

Uncanny Scales

Residential Architecture in Japan – Text by Architect Carlos M Teixeira

House in Yamasaki, by Tato Architects, is one more example that shows us the vitality of the recent residential architecture of Japan; a freshness associated with a recurrent play with tradition, a careful, quasi-clinical display of furniture and small objects, a sensitive use of natural light, and an intricate articulation of domestic spaces.

House in Yamasaki
photo : Ken’ichi Suzuki

Beyond these common features, House in Yamasaki is remarkable in its play with scales. The ground floor is only 180cm high from the outside, what gives it an aura of an object that was shrunk. It is visibly low, the three tall translucent sheds built over it just reinforcing an aspect of an unfamiliar scale. Floating atop the ground floor, these sheds actually are three prisms that illuminate the ground floor rooms, which host a couple and their two children. Almost devoid of program, they denote but are not the second floor: rather, they are unprogrammed typologies as nearly nothing happens there, except ventilation during summer, lighting, and an escape to the terrace that surrounds them and allows nice views to the surrounding mountains of the Hyogo prefecture.

Residential Architecture in Japan
photo : Ken’ichi Suzuki

Actually, part of the sheds has some uses: a quite small bathroom, a sunroom and a guestroom. But as the architect tells us, “the sheds do not actually provide spaces for usual staying but cover the living floor on the foundation platform; this resulting in keeping away the neighbours eyes (…) Accordingly, I think, both delicate closeness and distance to the surroundings have been realized.” Essentially, House in Yamasaki seems to be an autonomous building marked by hollow gabled roofs which power lies in their apparent useless.

House in Yamasaki
photo : Ken’ichi Suzuki

The iconography of the traditional house has been retrieved in the last 15 years all over the world and maybe we are watching a minimalism fad that, consciously or not, takes the postmodern “serious jokes” and ironies as something new, although now stripped of postmodernism’s excesses. But this house is also tuned with a trend of fertile dialogues between tradition and modernity; dialogues that, in the best examples, manage to pervert both of them and know how to avoid PoMo’s literal parodies. On the one hand it is just a childish sketch, on the other it is contemplative and platonic. Actually opposed to any trace of naiveté, its archetypical elements calmly laid over a modern slab, House in Yamasaki is not just cut-and-paste or collage, but a skillful play with scales.

House Yamasaki, Hyogo, Japan
Design: Tato architects
House in Yamasaki
photo : Ken’ichi Suzuki

Carlos M Teixeira

This week’s guest editor, Carlos M Teixeira, is the founder of Vazio S/A, an architecture studio based in Brazil. He has shown his work at Venice Biennale, the V&A, Sao Paulo International Art Biennale and others. His latest book, “Entre: Architecture from the Performing Arts”, was published in English by Black Dog this year.

Vazio S/A


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Residential Architecture in Japan

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