Florian Busch Architects has recently completed a house of interesting proportions; 72 feet deep by 15 feet wide, of which the client said they wanted the house to be "open" to the exterior, so that they could breathe in the middle of the dense city of Tokyo. The solution is an interesting play with one of the most common features of urban housing, and simultaneously offers a commentary on Japanese notions of "place".
The architects made the not unreasonable decision to open the house to the sides, which given the length of the site seems to make sense, and which helps to alleviate the tube feeling such a site might be prone to. Whats interesting is the device used to open the sides; as you can see from the image above, on the ground floor the north wall is open, on the second floor the south wall is open, and finally on the third floor the north wall is again open, this accomplished through the use of a folded cast in place concrete plate that weaves in and out. This plate appears to be non committal as to whether it's a floor or a wall, as the thickness is cleverly maintained in both conditions.
It's important to note the proximity of the neighboring buildings in the image above; though not touching, they are very close, and their height makes them appear to be closer than their actual distance apart might be. From this perspective, the folded plane might be considered a "party wall"* of sorts that has taken "both sides"; separating both the south and north buildings from each other and paradoxically creating a new "place" from this separation. As such, the house has no formal reason for being; it is a wall, an apartness that claims both sides equally, but makes no claim of its own. In this sense too, there is no unified living in this house. Each fold is it's own claim with no sharing. To move from one floor to another, one bores through the folded party wall:
The house has no place; it's a machine for borrowing, borrowing space from its unwitting neighbors. This lack of centeredness, or more accurately occupying multiple centers, is a very Japanese tendency, as noted in an earlier post (Japan Musings 6) and by Roland Barthes in his book "Empire of Signs", where he discusses the role of the train station in Japanese cities (emptying center). The "center" in this house is nothing more than the space one is currently occupying, and entirely consistent with Shinto tradition and, for that matter, the layout of Japanese cities themselves. One is out when in, in when out.
|The section is the elevation.|
|Nice use of curtains to separate space uses.|
All Photographs © Hiroyasu Sakaguchi AtoZ