This house, now built up in Yokohama, will never be occupied by a young couple with or without kids, a retired husband and wife or a business woman with a tight schedule and a big wardrobe. This is a prototype house built by a Japanese real state agency to showcase a new concept design within its catalogue for potential clients. May sound weird in an occidental culture but it’s a very common practice in Japan where those who dream about living in a detached house with garage and backyard provide their own plot and get in contact with the agency that better matches its expectancies. As a consequence the process of buying a house becomes something similar to buying just a product, associated to standard solutions but with the possibility to adjust the original concept design to your own needs.
This mindset will affect the process in all its stages, from the architectural project or the making of the prototype to the sales method, the adjustment of the project to the client requests and finally the construction at the specific site. The use of standard solutions tested previously by the building company, usually linked to prefabricated construction systems, allows reducing the final price. Most part of the decisions adopted during the project are consequence of this method although those who are not familiar with the Japanese culture cannot appreciate just looking at the final image.
The briefing we receive is concise, a Mediterranean house in Japan built in wood!! After the first shock and spending a couple of weeks in the Land of the Rising Sun things seem to be clearer. We approach the eastern way of life, get inside the habits of Japanese people and understand the method described previously. We decide to start with a strong concept design that provides character and identity and that will remain unaltered throughout the process of adjustment to each client needs. The Mediterranean recalls the sound of the sea, the salted taste, the smell of the pine trees, all of them details that obviously we cannot find in the outskirts of Yokohama. But it means also sun, light, shadows and fresh air (or suffocating air). A courtyard, a traditional element in the Mediterranean architecture, will be our central piece. We design a house that transmits intimacy, which is difficult to reach in the dense pattern of Japanese cities, and at the same time enjoy the environment. We aim for the “exterior” to sneak inside and the “interior” to escape outside.
Interior and exterior get in touch in a lot of corners and in many different ways. We find big terraces or little balconies, covered by shadows or sunbathed, entries protected by lattices, exterior corners where to enjoy a summer meal and the courtyard as the core element surrounded by the rest of the house. This is protected from unwanted viewings, becomes the center of the ground floor offering natural light, air and transparency. Crossing ventilations and perspectives give a perception of the space as wide an unique with an image far away from the classical tiny proportions of the Japanese architecture. All the windows have been though from the inside and intend to be a reflection of the daily activity at the house. Small and low windows if we want to take a look outside from the bathtub, big windows at the living room just to widen the space towards the exterior, in front of the kitchen sink to give us a distraction while we wash the dishes. If Le Corbusier defined the house as the “Living Machine” we prefer to feel it as the place to enjoy life.
*This project is part of my work at Estudio Mariscal. I was in charge as the "Lead project" of the development from the creative concept together with Javier Mariscal, coordinating the internal team and managing relations with the japanese client, Tatsumi Planning. All the construction drawings and works on site were in hands of the same japanese company.