Making the most out of the surroundings
The site of this house is located at the north end of newly developed land on a gentle north-facing slope of a mountain called “Nanakuniyama.” You can see its mountaintop to the southeast, and other mountains far to the north. The neighboring houses to the south and to the west are so close that they almost block the view towards the site from the street. Ground levels of an adjacent parking lot to the north and a farmland to the east are 1.6-3.5m lower than the site.The client’s request was to design a low cost two household house—one for his own and the other for his parents. The primary requirements are two. The first is to make the most of the site’s characteristics in order to enjoy the life here. The second is to make its design similar to the houses of Le Corbusier, on which his wife wrote in her college thesis.
Connecting the places of daily life and the scenery around them
A rectangle volume of 3-story building--the 1st floor is for the parents’ household and the 2nd and 3rd floor are for the client’s own household-- is placed in the north-south direction and divided equally into 3 portions. The main rooms are located either on the north side or the south side, so the main rooms are able to have views towards the north and to the east. The shared bathroom, kitchens and staircase are in between. We focused on timber-frame exterior walls as design element. We coordinated positions of windows and diagonal braces, so that we could selectively connect the places of daily life in the house to the scenery and topography surrounding them. On the exterior walls facing adjacent houses, the windows are carefully placed so as not to come face to face with those of the adjacent houses. On the wall facing east and open to the panoramic view, it has a long horizontal ribbon window extending beyond the bounds of a single room. The horizontal ribbon windows are placed independently of columns and diagonal braces of the wooden frame.
A window larger than a room
The idea of horizontal ribbon window is one of the Le Corbusier’s “five points of architecture.” What we think the most interesting in the design of “Une Petit Maison” by Le Corbusier built for his parents is the relationship between the long horizontal window and the rooms enjoying the view towards Lac Léman through it. Generally speaking, a window is placed on a wall belonging to a room. The window is supposed to be smaller than the room and to be contained by the room. But the horizontal window of “Une Petit Maison” spans over 3 rooms—dining room, bedroom, and bathroom. In this case, the single horizontal window organizes the multiple rooms. The window embraces the rooms. We used the window concept in the same way; horizontal ribbon window which consists of a range of numerous small openings spanning from one end of a building to the other. The horizontal window on the 2nd floor spans over the living room, dining room, master bedroom and kitchen. The kitchen on the west side of the house has the view towards the east through the staircase, corridor and the window.
Patchwork of openings
It was required by the building code to cover all the columns and beams in this house with gypsum board because of fire protection. We covered the diagonal braces as well as columns and beams. We pushed the sash windows completely out of the wooden frame and furnished exterior walls independently of columns and braces. The result is that a window which can be seen as one from the outside seems a collection of several small openings on the wall from the inside. The columns, beams and braces are not recognized as part of the wooden frame, but the residual of perforated wall. Using this, we tried another kind of window arrangement in the living rooms, bedrooms and corridor on the 1st floor. The windows are set in a way that one of the corners of them is put right next to another. This arrangement produces a stream running diagonal or zigzag course. This house consists of a patchwork of streams of small windows running horizontally and diagonally. Even though each scene through a tiny opening is really fragmentary, they would collectively make the panoramic view of scenery in the minds of the family.
Disorderly design for untidy daily life
Overall window arrangement of this house might look untidy and disorderly. It is usually said that to remove this kind of disorderly elements is a good way to have refinement in design. But we accept this kind of untidiness in a positive way, because what happens in the daily life is more or less messy and untidy in any way. You don’t need to mind putting things in order in this house.
Location: Machida-shi, Tokyo, JAPAN
Program: Private house
Structure Engineer: engineers network
Structure: Timber Construction
Number of stories: +3
Building Area: 44.44m2
Total Floor Area: 97.99m2
Completion: Julyt 2008