Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nora House : By Atelier Bow-Wow

Sendai, Japan
Atelier Bow-Wow

Post By:Kitticoon Poopong
Drawing on tradition, Atelier Bow-Wow's Nora House revives Sendai's suburbs with a fresh approach to family living.

Photo © Shinkenchiku-Sha
Drawing on tradition, Atelier Bow-Wow’s Nora House revives Sendai’s suburbs with a fresh approach to family living.
To the casual observer, Japan may seem slow in catching on to the current ecofriendly trend that has taken the architectural world by storm. But an awareness and appreciation of the environment has been ingrained in its house construction for centuries—for example, the natural ventilation and illumination that has become so fashionable nowadays has always been practiced in urban and rural Japanese architecture. Faced with a site where single-family homes coexist amiably with small fields of cabbages and carrots, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow-Wow unsurprisingly turned to traditional know-how for inspiration.

Photo © Shinkenchiku-Sha
The house’s unusual roof line hints at its daring interior.
The goal of the architect and his student collaborators from the Tokyo Institute of Technology was not just a new house but a new house typology tailored to the typical suburban-agricultural site ringing the periphery of many Japanese cities. Situated on the outskirts of Sendai, a city of 1 million located 190 miles north of Tokyo, this 2,500-square-foot property belongs to a residential community that sprouted in the 1960s when the area was mostly farmland. One by one, houses cropped up, but as in many comparable neighborhoods, that growth slowed in recent years as the country’s population dropped, the appeal of suburban living diminished, and young Japanese began migrating to the city center or Tokyo. 

Photo © Shinkenchiku-Sha
The Nora House looks out on a large, cultivated lot surrounded by conventional suburban houses. 
Swimming against the current, Tsukamoto’s clients, a couple with a young child, decided not just to move back to the suburbs, but to build on family-owned, cultivated land directly across the street from the wife’s childhood home. Expressive and open to the street, their custom home does not exactly blend with its staid surroundings. Though it looks out toward a large cultivated lot, Nora House stands between pitched-roof residences clad with metal siding or stucco. But it is not entirely out of place, either. Comfortably familiar without being nostalgic, Nora House, or “house in the fields,” shares many features with Japan’s traditional minka farmhouses—a covered porch, fluid interior space, timber construction, and above all, a magnificent roof that hovers protectively over the entire building. 

Photo © Shinkenchiku-Sha
Inspired by the traditional south-facing engawa, the Nora House’s west-facing porch extends the family’s living space and brings light into its open interior.
Though modestly scaled in comparison with its historic antecedents (while contemporary urban houses tend to be small, historic minka farmhouses are usually huge), Nora House reads as a single-story, barnlike building. In keeping with this exterior, the interior is essentially one big space. “In Tokyo, we have done a lot of one-room living, but in a more vertical way,” explains Tsukamoto. “Here, we developed the idea horizontally.” Spanning a height differential of 9 feet—the walk-in storage area marks the house’s lowest point, and the daughter’s play area the highest point—the functional zones within this house are spread out over nine distinct levels. Fulfilling the client’s request for a house with continuous interior space without many partitions, short runs of stairs distinguish areas without separating them completely. Three freestanding partitions function as dividers and additional lateral bracing. 

Photo © Shinkenchiku-Sha
The office—up-close and at a distance —receives an abundance of light from the chimney set above it.

Photo © Shinkenchiku-Sha
The office—up-close and at a distance —receives an abundance of light from the chimney set above it.

Photo © Shinkenchiku-Sha
The architect maximized the house’s floor plate by creating nine separate levels distinguished by short runs of stairs.

Photo © Shinkenchiku-Sha
Stairs lead from the office down through the kitchen to the bedroom, which is partially embedded in the earth and is the only fully private room in the house.

Image courtesy Atelier Bow-Wow

Image courtesy Atelier Bow-Wow

the People

Atelier Bow-Wow + Tokyo Institute of Technology Tsukamoto Lab.
Atelier Bow-Wow
8-79Suga-cho, Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo 160-0018 Japan
Tel  +81-3-3226-5336
Fax  +81-3-3226-5366
Yoshiharu Tsukamoto + Momoyo Kaijima / Atelier Bow-Wow
Fuminori Nousaku, Atsuko Koyama, Takuya Yoshida, Chie Konno / Tokyo Institute of Technology Tsukamoto Lab
Architect of record
Yoshiko Iwasaki / Atelier Bow-Wow REGISTERED ARCHITECT
Yoshiharu Kanebako, Kisara Uzunami / Kanebako Structural Engineers
General contractor
Hashimoto Real Estate
Atelier Bow-Wow

the Products

Structural system
via:archrecord--By Naomi R. Pollock
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