This residence commands a sweeping view of the ocean from its perch on the steep hills that lead down to Sagami Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture, central Japan. In order to minimize the home’s visual impact on the rich natural landscape surrounding it, the architects kept the structure low and molded it to the contours of the land. To make it as transparent as possible, they enclosed the second story – where the entryway is located – in glass and latticework.
Beyond the second-floor living room, a wooden terrace descends the hillside in steps. Pillars gently demarcate interior and exterior, while deep eaves overhanging the terrace form a space evocative of the engawa, or narrow porch, typical of traditional Japanese homes. Viewed from this porch, the terrace’s stepped design renders the lower railing invisible. As one descends towards the ocean, the sense of becoming a part of the landscape only grows.
In contrast to the open second floor, the first floor feels subdued and restful. Windows are low and the design plays up the slope of the terrace overhead. Varied materials including glass, concrete, stone, and Japanese paper further define the contrast between each floors.
“I heard from the clients that they saw two of our other projects, House in Yugawara and RSH:3 (both completed in 2006) in a magazine, and that led directly to their contacting us. During the design process for those two houses, which are both located far from urban areas, we thought very deeply about the ambiguity of being open and closed to the surrounding landscape at the same time. The same themes were picked up again in this project.” – Kazuhiko Kishimoto / The commission for this house
Design process for the house:
When we think about designing structures that reflect the landscape, nature, and culture of the particular site where they’re built, shadow, permeability, materials and proportion are key. Those considerations are reflected in the space as variations in texture or atmosphere, such as heavy versus light or wet versus dry. In this project, we allocated these types of textural variations between the multiple floors that the site’s sloped nature gave rise to. We then linked these variations with a circulation plan that’s integrated into the architectural form. Essentially, however, the texture of each space must be derived from the idiosyncrasies of the environment surrounding it. In that sense, we were fortunate that this site offered us a very diverse natural environment to work with.
By using a Vierendeel beam structure on the top floor we were able to eliminate diagonal braces and bearing walls from the peripheral walls. But because the base of the 75 x 75 mm solid steel columns that serve as the main posts are secured by gusset plates that had to be placed in the concrete slab with extreme precision, framing the structure was quite difficult.
The combination of acrylic sheeting and latticework that governs the permeability/privacy balance on the upper floor turned out as we hoped it would. However, once construction got underway, we had to make some small adjustments to the detailing on the window and door frames that serves to absorb the thermal expansion of the acrylic sheets. In that sense the construction phase turned out to be quite important.
Sustainability & Technology:
When we think about the value of architecture, it’s critical to remember that before a certain house is the private property of its owner, it’s a product belonging to society as a whole. It follows that sustainability can be defined both as a limiting factor that controls technology and as a value accrued by the public. Balancing those two aspects of sustainability was important in this project. From the earliest stages we focused on using vernacular and traditional Japanese building methods to unify the concepts of designing for the public and designing for the client.
acaa – Kazuhiko Kishimoto:
A residential building located halfway up a cliff, overlooking the ocean. Thick clumps of trees that grow along the slope of the land surrounding the house cast a series of organic silhouettes that make the slope seem to come alive. We decided that the appropriate form to build would be as low-lying as possible, while also allowing the architecture to become embedded in the surrounding landscape according to the contours of the terrain. This would allow us to minimize the impact of the building on its environment. The design of the walls plays an important role in creating the overall sense of presence that a building projects. As such, we also tried to prevent the walls of this house from becoming surfaces that would obstruct or impede movement and sight.
Glass and screens along the enclosed perimeter of the house gives the second floor of this residence a certain transparency. Slender, deep-set eaves cast deep shadows on the facade of the building, softening the impact of the building’s physical presence in relation to its environment.
The various components of the building were structured in order to allow the inhabitants to enjoy a different view of the outside on each level. The first floor features a stone floor and concrete walls finished with plaster, while the Japanese paper screens fitted inside the glass reflect the shadows of plants and trees. The hard-edged surfaces and finishes coexist with the soft, muted tones of the Japanese paper.
The second storey, in contrast, features an open-plan living space, the entirety of which can be opened up towards the ocean. A series of wide eaves stand between the outside of the house and the interior, which is articulated into smaller sections by a row of pillars. Going down the staircase-shaped terrace allows one to gradually draw closer to the outdoor landscape. The section that divides the two different elevations on this floor provides seating throughout, functioning as a unique Japanese-style verandah (engawa). A steel-reinforced concrete structure was used for the second floor, and a Vierendeel bridge structure allowed us to float a large, thin roof on top. The pillars consist of square cylindrical poles (measuring 75mm across) made of solid iron arranged in a densely packed formation using wooden modules (900mm x 1800mm). By creating several areas of low-level rigidity, we were able to do away with the need for braces.
Project name: Wind-Dyed House
Location: Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan
Coordinates: 35.249278, 139.591382
- Type By Characteristic: Contemporary House, Japanese House
- Type By Site: Hill House
- Type By Size: Medium House – (201 sqm – 450 sqm)
- Type By Materials: Steel House
Structure: RC, Steel
Site Area: 454 sqm
Total Floor Area: 286.93 sqm
- Basement Floor – 54.86 sqm
- First floor – 131.22 sqm
- Second Floor – 100.85 sqm
Project Year: 2010
Completion Year: July 2011
Client / Owner / Developer: Private
Architects: acaa – Kazuhiko Kishimoto – Chukaigan Chigasaki, Kanagawa, Japan
Principal Designer: Kazuhiko Kishimoto
Project Team: Minami Koshida
Structural Engineer: Takahiro Suwabe/Suwabe Structural Design Office
Contractor: Satohide Corporation
Construction Manager: Akio Baba
Text Description: ? Courtesy of acaa – Kazuhiko Kishimoto
Images: ? Hiroshi Ueda, acaa – Kazuhiko Kishimoto