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Future Living

Claudia Hildner

Future Living
Collective Housing in Japan

6 About this Book: Architecture for Living Together
by Claudia Hildner

11 Beyond Modernism
by Evelyn Schulz

Collective Housing in Japan

28 Soshigaya House | Be-Fun Design + EANA
34 Tokyo Apartment | Sou Fujimoto Architects
40 Setagaya Cooperative House | Hitoshi Wakamatsu Architects
44 Yokohama Apartment | ON design & Partners
48 Nerima Apartment | Go Hasegawa & Associates
52 One-Roof Apartment | Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office
58 Share Yaraicho | Satoko Shinohara + Ayano Uchimura
64 Slide | Komada Architects Office
70 Apartment I | Office of Kumiko Inui
74 Yotsuya Tenera | Akira Koyama + Key Operation Inc.
80 M-apartment | Shinichir Iwata Architect
84 NE apartment | Nakae Architects, Akiyoshi Takagi, Ohno Japan
90 Yuima-ru Nasu | + New Office
94 Trois | Mitsuhiko Sat Architects
98 Dancing Trees, Singing Birds | Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Architects
104 12 Studiolo | CAt (C+A Tokyo)
110 Onagawa Container Temporary Housing | Shigeru Ban Architects (VAN)
114 Alley House | Be-Fun Design + TAS-S
120 Sakura Apartment | Hitoshi Wakamatsu Architects
124 Alp | Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office
130 Komatsunagi Terrace | Mitsuhiko Sat Architects
134 Shakujii Pleats | Makiko Tsukada Architects
140 Applause Azabu | Salhaus
146 Static Quarry | Ikimono Architects
150 Apartment in Kamitakada | Takeshi Yamagata Architects

156 Appendix
Claudia Hildner

About This Book

Architecture for Living Together

Single-family homes are only rarely semipublic areas that are used jointly by
residents who are initially unknown to one another. In the architecture of collective
housing, however, the relationship of the individual to the community becomes
an important theme. The integration into the urban or rural context also plays a
different role in large houses than it does when designing a single residence.
The blocks or ensembles that form the architecture of collective living cannot be
as easily swallowed up by their environment as, say, an individual small house can:
They crucially influence their environment and are like small cities within the city.

Farewell to Modernism

With its focus on collective housing in Japan, this book can be regarded as a
supplement to the publication Small Houses,1 which was published by Birkhuser in
2011 and approached Japanese residential architecture from the perspective of the
typology of the single-family home. But why does it pay to investigate the univer-
sal topic of housing by focusing on a single country? Several acute social phenom-
ena of industrialized nations are much more clearly pronounced in Japan than in
other countries. Because of strict immigration policies, demographic change is
progressing more rapidly there than elsewhere. At the same time, the structure
of households is also transforming rapidly: Rather than in the three-generation
families that were long common, more and more people are living alone today,
not wanting children and/or unable to take care of their aging parents. The rifts
opening up in many areas of society, not just in Japan, contrast with the circum-
stances that led to the global success of the Modern movement in the twentieth

A logo identifies the type of century: rapid economic and population growth, faith in progress, and internation-
building for each project: alization have given way to stagnation and a complicated battle against crises.
At the same time, more and more people are thinking about local identity and are
concerned with sustainable lifestyles. These processes of transformation are also
shaping the young generation of Japanese architects, who have set out in search
of an alternative to Modernism, of a new architectural utopia a theme that con-
nects them across different approaches and methods. Hence the title of this book,
Multistory apartment building:
Common entrance, including as
Future Living, does not refer to a vague future but instead describes a revolution
a rule a shared central stairwell. in the present and thereby distinguishes itself from architecture that feels a debt
to modern living. The projects presented reveal the structures and ideas that Japa-
nese architects are using to overcome the functionalism that characterized last
centurys residential architecture.

Row house: All units have Architects are certainly well aware of the extent of these revolutions: The
a separate entrance on the products of modern thinking whether about architecture, agriculture, or other
ground floor; predominately areas are increasingly obviously bumping up against their limits; they are con
multistory units/maisonettes.
fronted with the same problems with regard to the environment,2 observes
Akihisa Hirata, for example. Ecological sustainability and energy efficiency are,
however, generally interpreted differently in Japan than in many parts of the West-
ern world. The idea of the short useful life has deep roots in a culture influenced by
wood construction and ideas of religious purity and renovation, so that the long-
Communal housing: As a rule,
term performance of the individual building is only rarely considered. But Japan also
a common entrance on the
ground floor; one room that fills has advantages over most other industrialized nations in matters of sustainability:
an essential housing function for example, the distinctly lower demand for floor space generally means low use
and is used jointly.
of construction materials and energy.

The overwhelming majority of the residential buildings presented in this book

were not built on the initiative of large investors. They are primarily buildings
belonging to private property owners with four to ten residential units. It was not,
Multifamily home: All units have however, their scale that was the selection criterion for this publication; rather,
a separate entrance; some are
accessed via off-center steps. smaller sizes seemed to be invitations to experiment. Whereas for large projects
few developers will dare risk their planned profit by introducing new types of floor
plans and structures, private clients clearly have the confidence to experiment
more with their limited area and create exciting hybrids of single-family home and
residential block. The adaptation of collective living to a changed society results
from below, as it were, from small private projects that flourish thanks to the
Housing complex: Group of
several buildings with separate political and economic situation.
entrances; at least one building
used jointly.

Dissolving and Reconnecting

The scale of the projects presented here corresponds to the logic of large Japa-
nese cities based on many small elements, which has been increasingly recognized

and encouraged by architects but also by politicians. For the International Archi-
tecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2010, the architects Koh Kitayama,
Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, and Rye Nishizawa presented their concept of Tokyo me-
tabolizing,3 which defined Tokyo as a city of houses that is always reinventing
itself by constantly renewing small architectural elements. According to this argu-
ment, the large Japanese city is essentially characterized by residential buildings.
Conversely, in many current designs the context of the city also serves as inspira-
tion, and so it is recognized in that way. The supposed chaos of individual buildings
is distilled into structures that are adopted on a smaller scale and realized as new
dwellings. An important role in this is played by the traditional residential areas of
large Japanese cities, which are distinguished by, among other things, their lively
lanes (roji) and their atmospheric density (on this, see Evelyn Schulzs introduction,
p. 11 ff.). In the Japanese Pavilion at the Biennale, the architects presented two fin-
ished residences on a 1:5 scale: Bow-Wow House and Studio, which combined the
home and workplace of the husband-and-wife architects in one building, and Rye
Claudia Hildner, Small Houses:
Nishizawas Moriyama House. This ensemble for seven occupants, created in 2005 Contemporary Japanese Dwell
for a client who was open to experimentation, is located typologically between a ings (Basel, 2011).
single-family home and a house share, between multistory apartment building and 2
Akihisa Hirata, Tangling: Pl-
small housing development. The design conveys an idea of what the relationship of doyer fr eine neue Architektur
the individual to society could look like today and reveals the ambivalence between der Verflechtung, in Tokio: Die
the desire for an individual lifestyle and the search for identity. The ensemble has Stadt bewohnen, Arch+ 208
(August 2012): 7681.
been understood both in Japan and abroad as an exemplary realization of a concept
for future living.4 3
Koh Kitayama, Yoshiharu Tsu-
kamoto, and Rye Nishizawa,
Tokyo Metabolizing (Tokyo,
Moriyama House can be used to demonstrate several design considerations 2010).
addressed in Japanese architecture today: The ensemble consists of ten volumes,
Niklas Maak, Japonisiert
but the areas that are related functionally are not necessarily located in the same
euch!, Frankfurter Allgemeine
volume. The program was not condensed into units as compact as possible and Sonntagszeitung, no. 43 (Octo-
then hierarchically arranged but rather articulated as individual components and ber 25, 2009): 21.
then reconnected. The house of the future overcomes the idea of a compact 5
Sou Fujimoto, Die Architektur
volume in favor of a number of different bodies integrated into the city and dis- der Primitiven Zukunft, in
solved within it,5 as the architect Sou Fujimoto describes this approach. Hence Tokio: Die Stadt bewohnen,
Arch+ 208 (August 2012): 6671.
the design is marked by a process of dissolving that leads to new relationships
between the components and to the city. The focus is no longer the compact- 6
Sou Fujimoto, Primitive Future,
ness of the building and its function but rather its networking and structure. Contemporary Architects Con-
cept Series 1 (Tokyo, 2008), 24.
Fujimoto sees this as the nest being replaced by the cave: a nest is prepared
according to inhabitants sense of comfortability while a cave exists regardless of 7
Atelier Bow-Wow, Behavioro
convenience or otherwise to its inhabitants [] it is not organized in the name of logy (New York, 2010), 13.

functionalism but by place-making that encourages people to seek a spectrum of 8

Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Me-
opportunities. 6 tabolismus der Zwischenrume:
Neue Typologien des Wohnens
in Tokio, in Tokio: Die Stadt
Moriyama House can, however, also be read as an ensemble developed around bewohnen, Arch+ 208 (August
open spaces. The spaces in between are not just setback areas but rather extend 2012): 3034, esp. 34.

the private living spaces into the exterior. This new role for the interim space was
first advocated by the architect Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow-Wow: The
regeneration of houses would revolve not around a core, but a void the gap space
between buildings and would be propelled by the initiatives of individual families,
rather than the accumulation of central capital.7 In this interpretation, the dis-
solution of compact structures reveals the rearrangement of the remaining areas
and gaps resulting from the progressive subdivision of lots during the twentieth
century. Increasing density has led to building codes that primarily define property
lines and setbacks. Architecture is increasingly becoming a byproduct of gaps be-
tween buildings, says Tsukamoto.8 He and other Japanese architects counter this
development with designs in which the space in between can adopt a new role, and
in which its indeterminacy permits a variety of uses. By contrast, the core has lost
its significance as one of the essential elements of modern architecture.

The Structure of This Book

This book is divided into two sections: In her introduction Evelyn Schulz works
out the fundamental cultural aspects of collective living in large Japanese cities
since the seventeenth century. The focus of her reflections is on the structures of
the typical residential neighborhoods in which most of the buildings presented in
this publication were built and whose context now serves in contrast to several
decades ago as inspiration for many architects designs. The examples pre-
sented in the project section that follows it convey a comprehensive picture of the
architecture of collective living in Japan. The focus is concepts for coming up with
forms and designing floor plans; they are presented with photographs and plans
and explained in an accompanying text. To make it easier to read the drawings, the
individual residential units in the more complex designs have been indicated by us-
ing different colors in the floor plans and sections.

Evelyn Schulz

Beyond Modernism

No future without a past: Japanese architects and urban planners are

rediscovering traditional forms of collective living. Alongside structures
for neighborhoods based on small buildings, premodern models for liv-
ing together also serve as inspiration.

Evelyn Schulz is professor of Japanese studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt in Mu-

nich. Her work focuses on the literature and culture of modern Japan. Her research is dedicated
to, among other subjects, the urbanist discourse there, which has recently included strategies
for deceleration and how to represent it in the media.

Halting constant change and creating places in the city that convey histori- 01 City up to the horizon:
cal continuity and spatial cohesion the desire for an environment for living and modern Tokyo seen from
Mori Tower (Roppongi Hills)
dwelling oriented around traditional structures has increased in Japan in recent
years, as has the need for meeting places where collective life is possible.

The present essay begins by outlining how processes of growth and shrinking
have transformed the Japanese city since the nineteenth century. That is followed
by a look at design in traditional residential districts, which also considers how well
they function as places for encounters. Next we shed light on the evolution of the
city in the twentieth century, from the gradual disappearance of such structures
to their rediscovery. Finally, the relevance of such traditional urban structures to
the current discourse on the future of urban housing in Japan will be considered.

1. Introduction and Background: Processes of Growth and Shrinking and
the Search for New Forms of Housing

Many questions and topics concerning urban life and the city of the future
have their roots in the nineteenth century. The rapid growth of cities, advanc-
ing industrialization, and diverse processes of modernization and the formation
of nation-states that were set in motion at that time remain current in various
forms: urban planning and architecture, protection against catastrophes, hygiene
and epidemic prevention, aesthetics and functionality, migration and integration.

In Japan, the reception of such international discussions has varied in inten-

sity since the country was opened to the outside world in the mid-nineteenth
century, being questioned and supplemented to increase their relevance to Japan.
At that time, far-reaching modernization processes were introduced based on the
reception of the cultural legacy, ideas, and technology of the West, concentrating
initially on cities, especially Tokyo, the new capital.

The reception between Japan and Europe and Japan and North America was
not, however, one-sided. In their search for new forms of architecture, pioneering
modern architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruno Taut, and Walter Gropius en-
countered the premodern residential architecture of Japan, and they saw their own
conception of modern architecture reflected in its simplicity, functionality, and
modular construction. The worldwide recognition of Japanese wood construction
was influenced especially by Bruno Tauts discovery of the Katsura Villa, near Kyoto,
in the 1930s. The enthusiastic reception of this imperial ensemble of buildings
and gardens encouraged a rediscovery of indigenous architectural forms in Japan.
This interest focused primarily on prototypical residences, usually freestanding
villas for the upper-middle and upper classes. By contrast, the repetitive design of
homes for the common residents of cities low wooden buildings built in dense,
mixed-use districts with narrow lanes was largely ignored, as were the structure
and articulation of urban space.

During this period, context was primarily taken to mean the relationship to
nature that is, in most cases, to a garden. By contrast, the way these houses cor-
responded to their built environment and how they were shaped in part by this ur-
ban life was, at best, only of ancillary interest. This focus on the house as if it were
an object standing alone was encouraged by various factors. One of these was the
replacement of the extended family, which had characterized premodern society,
by the nuclear family based on the modern European model. Increasing individual-
ism encouraged retreat into the private and increased the need for corresponding
forms of housing and ownership. Moreover, population growth in the cities was
based on an influx from the rural population, especially the younger generation. As
a result the model of the three-generation family lost significance, which in turn

0203 Villa Katsura,
near Kyoto, view from the
garden: The modern
architect will be astonished
to discover that this building
is absolutely modern insofar
as it fulfills its requirements
in the most succinct and
simplest way possible,
observed Bruno Taut in 1933.

02 03

accelerated the construction of smaller residential units. The architect Yoshiharu

Tsukamoto speaks in this context of an agenda of home ownership in the twen-
tieth century 1 that imposed on architects a program of individualizing. Whereas
Japanese residential architecture is still aestheticized as a model for contemporary
architecture, many metropolises are considered labyrinths and constantly chang-
ing Molochs. Tokyo in particular is considered a city where few sites offer historical
continuity and spatial cohesion. This impression of continual change is reinforced
by the fact that Japanese residential buildings which still characterize the look of
the Japanese city as one of many small buildings are comparatively short-lived;
their useful life averages twenty to thirty years.

For a long time, the density of the center of cities and overdevelopment of the
periphery dominated urban growth in Japan. Many cities developed into gigantic
agglomerations. Today roughly seventy percent of the countrys population that
is, nearly a hundred million people lives in cities, with more than thirty-five mil-
lion of them in the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan region. Only in recent decades
has this previously unchecked growth ground to a halt. A wide variety of factors
and events have led to economic, political, and social shifts and fault lines. In ad-
dition to the pressure of globalization and the associated economic effects, the
principle factors are a declining birthrate and an aging population. The shrinking
processes triggered by demographic change affect both rural and urban regions
and necessitate the development of forms of housing that respond to the new cir-
cumstances. The idea of the nuclear family, which for decades was a pillar of Japa-
nese modernization, has for some time lost its authority as the dominant model.

Today in the search for answers to the question of what form of architecture
and urban design can make contemporary forms of living together possible eyes
have turned to models from the past. An important role in this is played by small-
scale, mixed-use districts, which have their roots in the seventeenth century. The
majority of such districts had to give way to modern building projects over the
course of the twentieth century. Those that remain provide a clue to a way of living
that benefits from proximity to neighbors and areas of collective use.

2. Premodern Forms of Collective Spaces

Beginning in the seventeenth century, small-scale, densely populated, mixed-

use districts were the center of urban life in Japan. In particular, the so-called long
seventeenth century of Japan that is, the period from around 1580 to 1720 was
characterized by developments that drove urbanization and continue to have ef-
fects today. These included the formation of a central government under the rule
of the Tokugawa shogunate, with Edo (present-day Tokyo) as its capital, as well as
enormous economic and population growth and associated demographic urbaniza-
tion. The foundations of Tokyos economic, political, and cultural dominance today
were established at this time. Edo had more than a million residents already by the
eighteenth century. During the so-called Edo or Tokugawa period (16031868), the
social and economic order was based on a feudal society with four estates: nobles
of the sword, farmers, artisans, and merchants. This structure was reflected in
04 The lanes in the form of cities as well as in residential architecture. Whereas the nobles of
traditional residential the sword daimy (feudal lords) and their samurai usually occupied spacious
districts (roji) offer the
residents a meeting place properties with several buildings, the common urban population, which consisted
and substitute for gardens. primarily of artisans and merchants, lived in densely populated districts.

There is relatively little reliable data on population and density for this period.
Edo is the best-documented city. Estimates assume that the so-called upper
city (Yamanote) where the nobility of the sword resided and where there were
numerous shrines and temples with gardens, had about 14,000 people per square
kilometer. The lower city (Shitamachi), by contrast, is thought to have had around
69,000 people per square kilometer. The lower city was subdivided into 1,700
districts, known as machi. They represented the smallest administrative unit and
at the same time were local communities that reflected the hierarchical structure
of feudal society. Roughly twenty to thirty percent of city dwellers were self-
employed merchants or artisans and owned property. They were the local upper
class and were organized into the so-called five households (gonin gumi), which
were subject to mutual control: Five neighboring households of the upper class in
a district were responsible for administration and control. This included supervis-
ing public works such as street repairs, coordinating fire prevention and fighting,
maintaining the register of families, and public announcements of government
edicts. Relationships between neighbors swung between closeness and control
and thus could be correspondingly contradictory. The districts had a square layout
with each side 109 meters long, and they were clearly laid out geographically. They
were always similar in structure: A main street ran through every district; a gate
with guards was located on each end. Side streets branched off the main street
to provide access to the residential areas behind it. Each district had around three
hundred residents, most of whom knew one another. The residents were charac- 05 The entrances to the
terized by a social homogeneity that resulted from belonging to a certain profes- lanes look like gaps, running
from the commercial street
sional group or estate. Frequently the residents had close business ties. Some to the simple residential
of the districts evolved a distinctive local identity over time and a strong sense districts.

of community. A famous example of this is the Nishijin District in Kyoto, where a
particular kind of weaving evolved more than twelve hundred years ago and is still
passed on from generation to generation.

The districts were dominated by a lively juxtaposition of housing and com-

merce, art and culture. The scroll Kidai shran (Excellent View of Our Prosperous
Age) of 1805 offers a comprehensive picture of their makeup. It is a twelve-meter-
long panorama of what was at the time Edos most important trading center:
Nihonbashi. More than seventeen hundred people and animals and more than a
hundred businesses and restaurants reveal situations from everyday life. The spa-
tial segregation shows the social position of the household: the main street is lined
with the residences and businesses of the local upper class, while on the narrow
side and back lanes less wealthy dealers, artisans, and workers live in long, usually
single-story, rented row houses, the so-called nagaya (row house).

Two types of nagaya evolved during the Edo period: Type 1 was constructed
on the properties belonging to the nobility of the sword to house warriors of the
lower ranks and servants. Architecturally, these houses were arranged to create
demarcation from the outside and thus offered protection against intruders. Row
houses of Type 2 were constructed by the property owners in the back streets of
the district to rent to propertyless artisans and merchants. Nagaya versus ura
nagaya (backstreet row house) describes buildings that differed in size and quality.
As a rule, one common feature was that there was at least one wall shared with
the neighboring buildings and combined several residential units under one roof.
Initially consisting of a single story, as land began to be used more intensively they


06 08

1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2

1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2

became two-story buildings. The homes were cramped: there were usually just
one or two rooms in addition to a small kitchen. The sanitary facilities (toilet and
bath) were located outside the house and were shared. A narrow lane ran between
the houses to provide access to the main street. This lane, called roji in Japanese,
was not a place of public transit but rather part of the semiprivate living space of
the residents. In addition to the toilets, there was a well, which functioned as an
informal meeting place for the residents. The word idobatakaigi (literally, gather-
ing at the well) refers to a chance meeting of residents at the well and suggests
the community life in such districts. For bodily hygiene, residents would go to a
nearby bathhouse, which was another important place for informal encounters of
residents. A shrine was originally part of the inventory of every roji.

3. The Disappearance of Community and the Evolution of New Forms

of Housing in the Twentieth Century

With the modernization of Japan, which was officially introduced at the time of
the Meiji restoration in 1868, the new capital, Tokyo, initially underwent far-reach-
ing structural, architectural, and social changes, which also had immediate ef-
fects on neighborhoods and their local communities. For example, the gates were
dismantled and the sentry posts eliminated. With the loss of visible boundaries,
the districts were no longer recognized as clearly delimited spaces. Administrative
reforms led to shifts in boundaries, name changes, and the combination of sev-
eral districts. They also lost their status as independent administrative units and
were incorporated into newly created districts as the lowest administrative level.
Migration, population growth, and a change in the social mix resulting from the
breakdown of the feudal society of the estates led to widespread exchange within
06 A lane (roji) lined by the population. All these factors contributed to the disappearance of the districts
row houses in a residential as socioeconomic, geographical, and administrative units.
neighborhood with common
In addition, extensive infrastructural measures resulted in lasting changes to
07 Schematic rendering neighborhood life. Edo was based on a broad network of rivers and canals on which
of a neighborhood in Edo
(dark: stores; bright: row
goods were transported. People either walked or took boats, so that the lower city
houses) was often depicted as a city of waterways and bridges. For example, many illus-
trations in the famous series of color woodcuts Meisho Edo hyakkei (One Hundred
08 Schematic rendering
of the same neighborhood Famous Views of Edo, 185658) by Hiroshige Utagawa (17971858) depict urban
in modern Tokyo: a wall waterscapes. Passersby stroll along the banks or over bridges or travel in boats.
of taller commercial build- The squares in front of the bridges functioned as public spaces that fed into the
ings surrounds a densely
populated residential area. districts. Such views disappeared over the course of the twentieth century. Shift-
ing the transportation of people and goods from waterways to land had critical
09 Schematic rendering consequences for the structure of the city and the use of waterways. Rivers were
of a back lane in Edo:
1. store; 2. nagaya; 3. roji; straightened out and many canals either filled in or turned into highways. Many of
4. well; 5. toilet. the new roads cut districts in two.

10 Nihonbashi under
snow in clear weather:
scenes like those found
in Hiroshige Utagawas
woodcuts of Edo have
largely disappeared from
modern Tokyo.

The widespread destruction Tokyo suffered first from an earthquake on Sep-

tember 1, 1923, and then by firebombing by the Americans in the last two years of
the Second World War created the conditions for extensive urban redesign. After
those catastrophes Tokyo underwent intense phases of rebuilding and growth,
which in turn triggered high demand for living space. During the postwar rebuild-
ing phase and the decades of rapid economic growth that followed, new forms
of housing were developed to accommodate the influx of people. Many of the
wooden structures that had survived the catastrophic fires were demolished over
time, usually to be replaced by multistory apartment buildings. The latter were
considered more hygienic and fire-resistant; moreover, they permitted more ef-
ficient use of lots. The rented row house was also modernized as a housing type.
However, the changed living and housing conditions of the residents, who were
often new to the city, mean that very different kinds of relationships between
neighbors evolved, and the social environment that had related to the specific dis-
trict in which homes had originally been embedded was lost.

In addition, new towns were established outside the conurbation hubs. They
consisted largely of multistory apartment buildings of reinforced concrete with a
large share of rental units (jtaku danchi or simply danchi) that were owned either
by the state or by companies. Compared to crowded conditions in the center of the
city, these housing complexes designed on the drafting table were spacious. They
were surrounded by green spaces; they had playgrounds, businesses, and cultural
facilities. In the 1960s these settlements were considered the epitome of modern
living and housing conditions. The layout of the floor plans of the apartments was
standardized: measuring circa forty square meters, each unit had two rooms, an

eat-in kitchen, and a small bathroom. Most of those living in danchi were newcom-
ers to the area, mainly white-collar employees and their families. Relationships
between neighbors were comparatively anonymous; occupants were considered
loners who protected their private sphere and wanted to avoid relationships with
their neighbors. Today many of the dilapidated danchi are considered unattractive,
unsalable architectonic monocultures, which is why some of them have even been

4. The Rediscovery of Roji as Housing and Meeting Places in the

Twenty-first Century

Despite the enormous changes that have occurred in Japans cities over the
past century, in many places there are still small neighborhoods in which the ele-
ments and structures of the premodern era have survived. These features include
cramped spaces, mixed use, local community, and a majority of residents from
families long established in the neighborhood. They often have roji as well, that is,
the narrow, jointly used lanes between houses that have characterized traditional
neighborhoods for centuries. Today they also function as sites for informal encoun-
ters of residents. Usually these lanes are so narrow and winding that they can only
be used by pedestrians. Often they end in culs-de-sac. In many cases, the bound-
ary between public and private space is barely evident.

For several years there has been a search for housing forms that can do justice
to the new social conditions, in such neighborhoods as well. Although the term
roji refers only to a specific component of these urban structures, it has come to
be synonymous for spaces to live and meet in which all generations can find their
place and where a deceleration of the tempo of life slow life is possible. The
residents find calm and relaxation, children find playmates in the neighborhood,
and older people find conversation partners. Homes, businesses, and sometimes
workplaces are close together, so that everyday life can be managed on foot. In
his study Nihon-ban sur shiti: Chiiki koy no bunka, fdo o ikasu machizukuri (The
Japanese version of the Slow City: Urban renewal that revives the particular culture
of a region and its natural environment, 2008), the urban and regional planner
Tetsunosuke Hisashige lists five features of a slow city, which also come up in the
current discussion of roji:

1) being human: the ability to walk a comfortable pace in public spaces that are
designed on a human scale;
2) slow food: enjoying locally produced food;
3) integration, with residents sharing the specific culture and history of a region;
4) communication between residents;
5) a sustainable lifestyle that takes into account the intentions of the residents.

Because of Tokyos centrality, the discourse on roji and their potential to cre-
ate spaces of collective living has concentrated on Japans capital. Several of the
surviving districts in Tokyo have been carefully renovated and revived in recent
decades; they function as a model for Japan as a whole. Yanaka, Kagurazaka, and
Kichijji are particularly well-known examples. The popularity of these districts
illustrates the reinterpretation they have undergone in recent years: they used to
be considered backward and worthy of demolition; now they are seen as trailblaz-
ers of a new urbanism. Despite looking very different, the districts just named
have commonalities. They include, among other things, the interaction of various
functions: trade and crafts, culture and entertainment, living and meeting. Two of
these neighborhoods, Yanaka and Kagurazaka, are located in the center of Tokyo;
Kichijji is located outside it on a main train line and has a train station where
several lines meet. Yanaka and its adjacent areas are considered pioneers in the
revitalization of roji districts. In this case, revitalization means that an environ-
ment of living and working in the center of the city is preserved and expanded by
means of short roads, local businesses, and small cultural facilities. So Yanaka is
not just a residential neighborhood but has also developed into a popular destina-
tion in the center of the city. Many small businesses, galleries, and cafs create a
relaxed atmosphere. Older people live here as well as the young. Everyday life can
be managed on foot.

In recent decades, Kichijji has evolved into a diverse, mixed-use, very lively
part of the city on the periphery of Tokyo. The process that led to Kichijji taking
the form it has today is characteristic of the new appreciation for such neighbor-
hoods in general. In the 1960s large apartments were built near the train station,
where there were still many roji neighborhoods. Initially the plan was to demolish
dilapidated wooden buildings. However, local citizens action groups successfully
protested these plans, which ultimately led to the neighborhoods being preserved.
The area around the train station has since become a popular destination precisely
because it is so diverse, and the whole neighborhood has evolved into an attractive
residential and commercial area. Kichijji has diverse infrastructure: a pedestrian
zone extends from the train station to the immediate vicinity; in the small streets
right around the train station there are small, local specialty restaurants, jazz
cafs, bookstores, and large department stores. The other side of the coin of this
successful revival is that the great popularity of Kichijji as a place to live and work
has led to enormous increases in rents and real estate prices in recent years.

In the examples mentioned above, the revitalization of roji neighborhoods is

borne by strong local communities and based on marketing strategies that lead
to commercial success. Often shopping streets with local businesses have thrived
there, whereas in many places in Japan they are fighting for survival or have al-
ready been closed. Examples such as Kichijji and Yanaka demonstrate that local
citizens groups can successfully organize resistance against expensive, large-scale

construction projects and the gentrification that goes along with them. Where
neighborhoods in the center of the city are concerned, reviving traditional struc-
tures has another aspect: land in Tokyo has become extremely expensive, and high
estate taxes and rising land prices mean that at least part of an inherited property
is often sold. Thus Japanese laws concerning inheritance feed land speculation and
an unchecked building craze. In Tokyo lots are constantly being offered for sale
that in many cases will be purchased by investors and turned into large, multistory
housing complexes. The sudden increase in so-called POPS (privately owned public
spaces) large, multifunctional building projects sponsored by private compa-
nies is also significant in this context. POPS are usually a combination of office
buildings, exclusive apartment high-rises, shopping centers, and parks open to the
public. They are like a city within the city, and hence they are often not very well
integrated into their surroundings. Since the turn of the millennium there have
been several spectacular projects of this kind in Tokyo. One particularly striking ex-
ample, which sparked controversy, is the multifunctional Roppongi Hills complex,
which was completed in 2003. The Roppongi District is close to the government
district, where there are many embassies as well as the headquarters for several
international corporations. The site where the complex was constructed was previ-
ously a neighborhood of small buildings. The developer and investor Minoru Mori
11 Many small parts
(19342012) needed around fifteen years to acquire the lots necessary to build
and a mix of functions Roppongi Hills. The neighborhood was demolished, and the more-than-4-billion-
rather than large-scale dollar complex was built on the site thus freed up. In addition to the 238-meter-tall
replanning: traditional
urban structures could be Mori Tower, which forms the center of the complex and houses an art museum,
preserved in Yanaka. restaurants, boutiques, and offices, among other things, it includes a Grand Hyatt

Hotel and two high-rises with luxury apartments. A park open to the public con-
nects the buildings. Roppongi Hills offers exclusive, globalized worlds for living,
working, and shopping that are unaffordable for the majority of the population.
When developing the neighborhood, Minoru Mori alluded to Modernist architects
such as Le Corbusier and developed from them his own idea of a better, modern
life in the city. He interpreted the complex of buildings as a vertical garden city in
which home, work, and recreation are all close together.

In the view of the critics of such monumental urban design, the roji offer a
sustainable alternative that encourages living together. They represent not only
an established form of housing oriented around neighborhoods but also a concept
for space that calls into question hegemonic ideas of modernity and progress and
opposes capitalizing on urban spaces. Various parties are involved in the rediscov-
ery of the social, economic, and ecological value of roji structures. For some time
architects have been working on contemporary ways to update roji neighborhoods,
for example, by replacing the individual houses with residences that take the
context into account. Moreover, elements of roji serve as inspiration for designers,
for example, in the case of residences for the elderly, who often grew up in such
traditional neighborhoods. Typical roji elements such as zones of shared use are in-
tended to encourage communication among residents in such projects. That led to
a turn away from the program of individualizing and toward the immediate urban

13 14

12 Roppongi Hills in the surroundings. In view of the great changes Japan confronts, the architect Kish
center of Tokyo: the complex Kurokawa, who died in 2007, has gone as far as to call roji the key to the future.2
includes, among other
things, the imposing Mori Many projects reflect this coming to terms with roji structures as inspiration for
Tower and two red-and- new forms of collective housing and living together (cohousing). One striking ex-
white residential high-rises. ample is the design for a so-called roji core (rojikaku): a four-story tower in the
13 This design, known middle of a residential neighborhood with collectively used spaces such as kitch-
as Rojikaku, is part of the ens, bathrooms, and bicycle parking. There is also a public herb garden on the roof.
project Tokyo Urban Ring,
The design for this tower was presented to the public in the exhibition Tokyo 2050:
which is concerned with
how densely populated resi- 12 Visions for the Metropolis in September 2011. The subject of the exhibition and
dential districts composed the associated events was the discussion of designs that in contrast to earlier,
of small buildings can be
growth-oriented designs respond to demographic changes and the associated
processes of shrinking.
14 Each collectively used
core provides several resi-
dences with additional space
and technical infrastructure. 5. Summary and Looking Forward

Reactivating small-scale urban structures that provide areas to be used collec-

tively and applying this concept to new buildings can be interpreted as a further re-
finement of forms of neighborhood-oriented housing with roots in the premodern
era. This development points to a strong need for a local, historically evolved ur-

banism. The discourses and initiatives associated with it make it clear that globali- 1
Yoshiharu Tsukamoto,
Metabolismus der Zwischen-
zation has not made space or site superfluous; rather, the importance of the local
rume: Neue Typologien des
is being reactivated. In addition, they are an expression of the need to return the Wohnens in Tokio, in Tokio:
city and urban life to a human scale. These developments are being supported by Die Stadt bewohnen, Arch+
208 (August 2012): 3034,
lawmakers. In 2004 the landscape law (keikanh) was passed, which is designed
esp. 34.
not only to protect and preserve the urban legacy but also to pursue sustainable
design of landscapes and cities. The goal is to improve the quality of life and to 2
Kurokawa, Kish. Toshi kaku
mei: Ky kara kyy e. Tokyo,
conserve environmental resources. Moreover, many aspects of the debate in Japan 2006: 86.
relate the global trend of cohousing and other principles and theories to f uture
living. Thus the discourse about roji and about megaprojects such as Roppongi Hills
refer to two sides of the same coin. Each of these structures is a variation on the
compact city, which is also becoming more relevant in Japan. Given the enormous
challenges that face Japan in the post-Fukushima era, it is reasonable to assume
that the search for forms of living together that take into account both social and
ecological sustainability is far from over.

Tokio: Die Stadt bewohnen, Arch+ 208 (August 2012).
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Kakureta chitsujo: Nijisseiki no toshi ni mukatte. Tokyo, 1986.
Brumann, Christoph, and Evelyn Schulz. Urban Spaces in Japan: Cultural and Social Perspectives. London/
New York, 2012.
Cybriwksy, Roman A. Roppongi Crossing: The Demise of a Tokyo Nightclub District and the Reshaping of a
Global City. Athens, 2011.
Enders, Siegfried R. C. T. Japanische Wohnformen und ihre Vernderung. Hamburg, 1979.
Hisashige, Tetsunosuke. Nihon-ban sur shiti: Chiiki koy no bunka, fdo o ikasu machizukuri. Tokyo, 2008.
Kurokawa, Kish. Toshi kakumei: Ky kara kyy e. Tokyo, 2006.
Morse, Samuel C. Reinventing Tokyo: Japans Largest City in the Artistic Imagination. Amherst, 2012.
Nihon Kenchiku Gakkai. Seikatsukei: Mijikana keikan kachi no hakken to machizukuri. Tokyo, 2009.
Nishimura, Yukio, ed. Toshibi: Toshi keikan shisetsu no genry to sono tenkai. Kyoto, 2005.
Okamoto, Satoshi. Edo Tky no roji: Shintai kankaku de saguru ba no miryoku. Tokyo, 2006.
Oono [Ohno], Hidetoshi, ed. Shurinkingu Nippon: Shukush suru toshi no mirai senryaku. Tokyo, 2008.
Radovi, Darko. Another Tokyo: Places and Practices of Urban Resistance. Tokyo, 2008.
Radovi, Darko, and Davisi Boontharm, eds. Small Tokyo. Tokyo, 2012.
Schmidtpott, Katja. Nachbarschaft und Urbanisierung in Japan, 18901970. Munich, 2009.
Sorensen, Andr. The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and planning from Edo to the Twenty-first Century.
London/New York, 2004.
Sorensen, Andr, and Carolin Funck, eds. Living Cities in Japan: Citizens movements, machizukuri and local
environments. London/New York, 2007.
Suzuki, Hiroshi. Nihon konpakuto shit: Chiiki junkan-gata toshi no kchiku. Tokyo, 2007.
Ueda, Atsushi, and Osamu Tabata, eds. Roji kenky: M hitotsu no toshi no hiroba. Tokyo, 2013.
Usugi, Kazuo, et al., eds. Roji ni manabu seikatsu kkan no saiseijutsu. Tokyo, 2010.
Yazaki, Takeo. Social Change and the City in Japan: From Earliest Times through the Industrial Revolution.
Tokyo, 1968.

BE-FUN DESIGN + EANA | Tokyo 2012

155 m2 total floor area

4 units
30 m2 / 70 m floor area per unit
14 occupants per unit

The courtyard as center: An ensemble with four units forms an exterior

space for common use for which events are planned to enliven the place.
There is, however, no obligation to join the community, as the private
sphere of the occupants has been preserved.

01 A cozy little place: this

interior courtyard provides a
meeting place for residents.

02 View of the ensemble

from the east: the courtyard
opens up onto a vacant lot.

In an emergency, the individual has to be able to count on support from the
community. The importance of relationships with neighbors came into focus for
the architects from Be-Fun Design and EANA after the catastrophe of an earth-
quake and tsunami in 2011. The four units of Soshigaya House in the Setagaya Dis-
trict of Tokyo are therefore arranged like a bracket around an exterior space that
can be used by all the residents.

The ensemble is somewhat hidden: A narrow lane provides access to the lot
from the street. The ensemble starts with the largest housing unit, which is suit-
able for a family with children and includes a parking space. Square slabs of vari-
ous sizes lying on a bed of gravel lead into the courtyard, around which the four
residential units are grouped united in one volume and from which they are

The stepping-stones and gravel of the courtyard would be reminiscent of a

dry or rock garden, were it not for the trees in the center, which are intended to
offer a suitable background for Japanese festivals, which are often closely tied to
the change in seasons. The architects closely interwove the common area with the
private exterior spaces, namely, the entry areas and balconies of the three smaller
maisonette units.

03 The entries of the

three maisonette units can
be opened facing the court-
yard by means of sliding
wooden elements.

04 A ladder on the
second floor of the maison-
ette apartments leads into
a cube above.

05 Each of the loggia-

like balconies faces two

04 05
06 Cross section, scale 1:250

Second floor

Ground floor, scale 1:250

06 Events are planned to Apart from these connecting points, however, the four apartments are rela-
enliven the small courtyard tively self-contained: The window openings do not face the courtyard but are
in the future.
instead oriented toward the outdoors, and the entry areas of the small units can
07 Articulated by steps: be separated by large wooden sliding doors. Proximity to the neighbors is made
the living room on the
possible but not compulsory.
second floor of the northern
residential unit (in blue on
plan) In Japanese there is an old expression for immediate neighbors, muk sangen
rydonari, which translated literally means the three houses opposite and the two
next door. For the architects, this description of the closest ties that one once had
outside the family became the point of departure for their design albeit with the
knowledge that this next door and opposite no longer has the same relevance
today that it once had and thus has to be reinterpreted.

The concept of forming a community will only function if the residents are fun-
damentally prepared to establish close contact with their neighbors. It is, however,
probable that the design of Soshigaya House will primarily attract tenants who
place value on such a tie. Moreover, for the first year the architects developed a
proposal for events that would ensure that the courtyard is regularly used jointly
by the residents and perhaps also by others living in the district.

Tokyo Apartment
Sou Fujimoto Architects | Tokyo 2009

180 m total floor area

4 units
3560 m floor area per unit
24 occupants per unit

A tower composed of small houses: four apartments that are accessed

independently but form a striking unity. Spaces in between them that
seem to lack function open up new fields for experimenting with

01 On the way to the

house above the house: this
glazed connection between
the rooms in this unit (in red
on plan) offers an intense
connection to the outdoors.

Site plan, scale 1:750


Stacked primitive huts: Each of the four units of the Tokyo

Apartment in the Itabashi District is composed of several volumes,
each of which has the prototypical form of a residence. The feeling
of living in ones own house is further reinforced by separate en-
trances, some of which are accessed via outdoor stairs. At the same
time, the building looks like a kind of compressed city that can be
conquered like a mountain peak.

The volumes of which each unit is composed differ in size and

are slightly rotated with respect to one another. Three of the units
are maisonettes, with the lower two apartments incorporating the
cellar. The sections of the building that are above ground are wood
construction. The supporting elements and the reinforcements are
found in places where they would not ordinarily be expected: diago-
nal construction elements crisscross the windows; single supports
stand in the middle of a room.

In this design Fujimoto aims for a kind of chaos that recalls the
structure of large Japanese cities. The experience of urban space in
Japan is characterized by a juxtaposition of everyday forms of archi-
tecture without regard to context, which results in new, unexpected

Cross sections, scale 1:200

02 Here Sou Fujimoto

has translated the charm
of the experience of urban
space in Tokyo in a residen-
tial building.

03 It is not just the

interior spaces that invite
residents to discover and
appropriate them.

04 White steel stairs characterize the building both outside
and inside. Only a few details betray that the building is wood
construction above ground.

04 Ground floor, second floor, third floor, scale 1:200


05 The construction is relationships. For the architect, the behavior of the house is prima-
wood but does not follow a rily a reflection of the relationships found in Tokyo: Superimposed
strict grid: hence cross-
pieces and braces appear in upon the composition are experiences created by chance and neces-
unexpected places in several sity, which result from agglomeration It is more like Tokyo than
residential units. Tokyo itself; Tokyo that doesnt exist; the Tokyo which is most like

Tokyo Apartment does not foreground the functionality of the

units. Rather, Fujimoto emphasizes changing views outward and
rooms that are formed by the experience and creativity of the resi-
dents. Exterior and interior stairs and the stacking of the residual
Sou Fujimoto, Tokyo Apart- spaces invite residents to discover new uses. Hence unforced en-
ment, in Redefining Collectiv- counters with the neighbors become possible, which, along with the
ity, JA: The Japan Architect,
no.78 (Summer 2010): 94101, high recognizability of the architecture, can encourage the residents
esp. 101, 98. to identify with the building.

Cooperative House
Hitoshi Wakamatsu Architects | Tokyo 2013

510 m total floor area

8 units
6080 m floor area per unit
35 occupants per unit

The heterogeneous look of the shell of the building already suggests it:
The units were constructed according to the individual desires of their
future occupants. A developer brought the eight clients together; the
architect designed an individual unit for each of them.

01 This tall space is hid-

den beneath two outdoor
stairwells that provide
access to apartments on the
upper floor (unit in bright
blue on plan).

02 Unity despite diver-

sity: each of the eight clients
wanted a home based on his
or her individual wishes.

Site plan, scale 1:2,500

03 The maisonettes are

nested in space; this unit
(in dark blue on plan) has
a half-height gallery above
the bathroom.

04 Connection between
living room and roof ter-
race on the third floor (in
magenta on plan)

Ground floor, second floor, cross section, scale 1:500

Roughly sixty percent of all Japanese live in

single-family homes. Even in the cities, this number
is relatively high, though they are rarely surrounded
by a garden but are nearly always dominated by the
directly adjacent facades of neighboring buildings.
The opportunity to design a home in accordance with
ones own ideas clearly appeals strongly to people.

When planning the Setagaya Cooperative House,

the principle of the single-family home was applied to
a residential building with several units. A developer
specialized in such collaborative projects first found
the clients based on a rough architectural concept,
worked out a budget, and then established a sched-
ule. Once the lot had been subdivided, the architec-
tural firm of Hitoshi Wakamatsu took on the group of

The architect planned the building from the in-

side out and developed an overall complex from the
sum of the residents wishes. Instead of creating a
frame to be filled by the residents, as is usually done


inprojects for developers, the users themselves were

the basic framework for their future homes. The re-
sult reflects this project in the use of different mate-
rials and colors, the formal diversity of the doors and
windows, and the irregular arrangements of stairs,
balconies, and terraces.

The building houses eight units in all, accessed

individually via a shared front yard. Four of the mai-
sonettes are developed working from the ground
floor into the cellar; the other four are located on
the upper floors and have access to a roof garden.
Because the maisonettes are not placed compactly
within the complex but rather occupy a different loca-
tion on each floor, each unit faces outward in multiple
directions. Their individuality contrasts with the fact
that the apartments are closely interwoven in three

Yokohama Apartment
ON design & Partners | Yokohama 2011

152 m total floor area

4 units
25 m floor area per unit
1 artist per unit

Four residential units for artists span a semipublic space in a residential

neighborhood in Yokohama characterized by small buildings. The com-
mon area provides the residents with additional space and is intended
to be open to neighbors as well.

01 Exterior or interior?
The ground floor forms a
transition zone between
the street and the private
residential units.

02 A compact volume
housing four residential
units sits above the col-
lectively used multipurpose

The building is located in a hilly residential area with narrow,
winding streets and small single-family homes standing close
together. In such residential neighborhoods in Japan, separation
from immediate neighbors is often a crucial theme of the design.
A feeling of distance results despite the physical closeness of the

Yokohama Apartment breaks this pattern: the inviting gesture

of the broadly open ground floor is no empty promise, since the
space is indeed supposed to be alive with events such as exhibitions
and lectures and other shared uses. The courtyard is formed by a
construction on stilts with four small apartments made available
to artists. The users are thus part of the concept, since whether the
open courtyard is accepted as a site for events depends on the will-
ingness of the residents to embrace the experiment.

Ground floor and second floor, scale 1:250

Every unit is accessed via its own outdoor stairway. Each

stairway winds around a core with a triangular floor plan where the
storage and multifunction rooms are located. On the ground floor
some of these areas are arranged around the common space, so
that furniture, equipment, and materials necessary for events can
be stored there.

The apartments function independently of the common space,

and some even have private balconies, though because of their
small size they are of limited use for extended lounging. The resi-
dents will probably tend to shift instead to the common ground
floor for activities such as cooking and eating during the warm sea- 04
son and to the extent they share the right chemistry.
03 Two-story storage
spaces with triangular floor
If necessary, transparent curtains can be used to protect the plans delimit the space on
the ground floor.
common area from all too direct access and drafts. The architects,
Osamu Nishida and Erika Nakagawa, see the covered courtyard as a 04 The apartments on
continuation of the Modernist ground floor on stilts: the goal is an the second floor function
independently but leave
architecture that does not follow rigid formal criteria but instead of- hardly any room to work on
fers space for the expression of individual lifestyles. art (unit in yellow on plan).

Nerima Apartment
Go Hasegawa & Associates | Tokyo 2010

1,054 m total floor area

20 units
2844.5 m floor area per unit
12 occupants per unit

Single- and multistory units with various floor plans form a compact
volume around a central access core. Every apartment has a loggia,
regulating the relationship between private space and the city.

01 Protected outdoor
space: single and multistory
loggias extend the living
space and substitute for

02 Window-like openings
on the outer shell frame the
views out from the loggias
behind them.

03 04

The typical rental unit for singles in a large Japa-

nese city is the one-room apartment. These units,
which as a rule consist of only twenty square meters,
are lined up like boxes in multistory apartment build-
ings. The Japanese housing market does not offer a
lot of options to people who want a small apartment
without a standardized floor plan.

The Nerima Apartment represents an effort by

Go Hasegawa to redefine this type: The various uses
compressed into housing boxes are freed up and reas-
sembled; open mini-balconies are replaced by habit-
able loggias. The residential units can be divided into
three types of floor plan: the multistory maisonette
apartment with an open loggia that extends across
all floors; the elongated unit, in which the rooms
are lined along the facade; and the L-shaped corner
apartment. Combining these three floor plans results
in a compact volume accessed from the center of the

Despite their integration into the overall work,

Hasegawa calls the loggias terraces, and he im-
agines the residents using them like gardens. Yet
the view in from outside is extremely limited un-
like with a balcony or large windows so that the
residents can use their open spaces unobserved.
Fourth floor, scale 1:250

As a rule, the loggias of the Nerima Apartment are
closely connected to the bathrooms of the units;
the two areas even have similar tile. The bathroom
is thus separated out of the interior and realized on
the threshold to urban space. This can also be seen
as an allusion to traditional practices, since well into
the twentieth century the Japanese relied primarily
on public baths for thorough bodily hygiene (see also
page 11 ff.).

The loggias offer residents an opportunity to

pursue certain activities largely irrespective of the
weather outdoors. Undisturbed by the eyes of neigh-
bors and passersby, the users enjoy framed views
Cross section, scale 1:500
outward or consciously accept visual contact. When
density no longer means uniformity, and being seen is
no longer unavoidable but rather a choice, it improves
the quality of communal living and also, under some
circumstances, the willingness to approach other resi-
dents and to regard urban space as enriching.

03 Some of the apartments are multistory and offer a spa-

cious loggia.

04 Entry, wardrobe, kitchen, workspace, loggia, and access

are all housed in the tiniest space in this unit.

One-Roof Apartment
Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office | Jetsu 2010

958 m total floor area

19 units
2944 m floor area per unit
12 occupants per unit

The building is stretched over the foyer like a tent: the striking form of
the spacious entry sets the tone for this multistory apartment building
both outside and inside. The collectively used areas thus become the
focus of the design.

01 The tapering of
the space and the light
from the side and from
above makes this foyer
seem almost sacred.

02 The building is ac-

cessed from the south via
a parking lot.

Between the mountains and the sea: The city of Jetsu in
Ngata lies on the coast of the Sea of Japan and is surrounded by the
foothills of the Japanese Alps. Unlike in Tokyo, say, the winters here
are cold and snowy, hence the architect Akihisa Hirata abandoned
the ideas of terraces or balconies from the outset.

Given the climate, the farmhouses typical of this region feature

overhanging roofs that reach almost to the ground, protecting the
building from snow and cold in the winter. Hiratas design takes
up this theme: Parts of the building are slit open from below
and stretched wide. This results in a kind of protective tent inside,
which is formed by the surrounding building volumes that is, the
apartments themselves. The principle is somewhat reminiscent of
Sachio tanis Kawaramachi Danchi of 1972, although the differ-
ences in scale mean the buildings are scarcely comparable in other


03 Schematic rendering From outside, the building resembles an exposed-concrete

of the design concept block whose front third offers a somewhat unconventional,
04 Slit open: the building trapezoidal cross section. The slits, some of which extend the full
presents passersby a view height of the building, are largely glazed on the short and long
into the interior. sides; the entrance to the building faces a parking lot to the south.
05 The walls of the build- Two window formats of different sizes are staggered, and the
ing slope at different angles; jambs are angled, so that the building appears to be resisting a
slits mark the transition.
monotonous order.

Cross section, scale 1:250

06 View into the maisonette apartment
furthest west: a narrow stairway leads from
the ground floor to the second floor

07 where a bent corridor leads into the

southern part of the apartment.

Ground floor, second to fourth floors, scale 1:500

06 07

On the ground floor, visitors are received by a cathedral-like 08 At the end of the corridor in the mai-
space that narrows toward the top. The foyer tapers to the west sonette apartments is an eat-in kitchen with
a view to the south.
into a narrows. The entire area is lit from above and from slits on
the side. The raw surface of the walls and the mirror tiles distributed
randomly on it provide soft indirect light and interesting reflections.

The central access zone is crossed by closed bridges and galler-

ies that connect the otherwise separated parts of the building to
the north and south. They indicate that several of the floor plans
develop across the narrow. Hirata designed maisonette apartments
that are accessed via the northern section on the ground floor and
the third floor and then extend the entire width on the floor above
to the south, where they face the mountains. In addition, there are
one- and two-room apartments in the One-Roof Apartment.

The architect clearly based the design of the common areas

more on the qualities of the surrounding nature, the mountains,
than the urban context. But for that very reason, it resulted in a
spatial complexity that causes one to forget the surroundings
several meters away there is an enormous mall with around nine
thousand square meters of floor space and an even larger parking
lot. For the residents, and for the neighbors, the One-Roof Apart-
ment offers a point of identification in this diffuse region on the
edge of the city.

Share Yaraicho
Satoko Shinohara + Ayano Uchimura | Tokyo 2012

184 m total floor

7 units
1315.5 m floor area per unit
1 occupant per unit

Share rather than own: In this example of communal housing, the com-
mon rooms occupy many times the floor space of the private ones. The
residents benefit from a workshop and a roof garden.

01 A simple tarpaulin
separates the workshop area
from the street.

02 Seen from outside,

the building looks almost
provisional because of the
tarp spread in front of it.

03 The roof terrace and

its herb garden are used col-

02 03
Communal housing was long regarded in Japan as at most a pro-
visional solution for students. Recently, however, communal living
has been experiencing a small boom; it attracts in particular young
professionals, often from the experimental side of the design and
architecture worlds. Rather than moving into an expensive, small
apartment on the outskirts of the city, these Japanese prefer to live
together and share certain areas.

One example of what a contemporary housing share can look

like is Share Yaraicho by the female architects Satoko Shinohara
(Spatial Design Studio) and Ayano Uchimura (A Studio). A semi-
transparent tarpaulin sets the tone of the principal facade of the
building and attracts the attention of passersby and neighbors in a
residential neighborhood of small buildings in the Shinjuku District.
The architects distributed the private spaces freely within the
steel construction, so that the seven units are arranged in such a
way that their floors and ceilings do not touch. This helps insu- 04 The workshop extends across the entire
length of the ground floor; in the southern
late against noise, but it also makes cleaning more difficult, as the area it sits between one of the private resi-
spaces between units are only sixty centimeters across. dential boxes and the shared bathroom.

Ground floor, second floor, third floor, top view of roof, scale 1:300

Cross sections, scale 1:250

06 07

Above and between the individual rooms are the common 05 The shared eat-in
areas: on entering the building, one arrives first in the workshops, kitchen is delimited by swing
doors to the entry in the
where the residents can produce their own furniture, for example. north.
In this entry area one can appreciate the full height of the build-
ing, 9.3meters, since the facade of the living areas on the upper 06 In both the common
areas and in the private,
floors was built at a slight distance from the outer tarpaulin. The larch plywood dominates the
eat-in kitchen on the third floor rests on the roof of the residential impression of the space.
units below it and is, like all the interior spaces, distinguished by
07 The largest residential
larch plywood paneling on all sides. Hinged doors of aluminum with box, on the second floor,
polycarbonate panels allow one to open up or close off the workshop faces north, but poly
carbonate elements provide a
areas. An exterior staircase leads to a spacious roof terrace with an
lot of light inside.
herb garden.

The many common zones considerably expand the living space

of each resident, and the expense of cleaning and maintaining the
rooms and facilities is shared by all. The integration of workshops
and an herb garden reflects the zeitgeist of the moment, but it also
draws on a vision of urban living that is at once autonomous and
rooted in community.

Komada Architects Office | Tokyo 2009

749 m total floor area

9 units
60100 m floor area per unit
25 occupants per unit

Steps as habitat: the floor plans of the apartments flow diagonally

across several levels upward or downward. Every unit is directly
accessible from outside and has a private outdoor space either in the
interior courtyard or on the roof.

01 Living along the

stairwell: plateaus result-
ing from slanted planes
subdivide the areas of the

02 Even the roof terraces

are articulated by stairs.

Site plan, scale 1:2,000

In a quiet residential area in the Suginami District of Tokyo,

Takeshi and Yuka Komada produced nine apartments that are ac-
cessed separately from the ground floor. Inside, the individual units
develop diagonally upward or downward via steps and galleries
across two or more floors. The various apartments are thus struc-
turally closely interlocked.

Both architects say that planners often create residential

buildings with several units as a kind of skeleton that the residents
then occupy and decorate. In their view, this process is like renova-
tion, since the concept for the interior and that for the shell can be
considered largely independently of each other. By contrast, in Slide
they interpreted its construction and its inner life as a whole; the
individual units develop into a landscape that can be occupied by the

The volume of the building, which has as many as three floors

above ground and a complex interior, looks compact and restrained
when seen from outside. The units were constructed around a long
courtyard, and the five slabs run diagonally upward from below
that is, they start off as a cellar roof and end as a roof terrace.

Each apartment has at least two floors. The stairs and galleries
link the various living areas, resulting in a space that includes sev-
eral levels. Four of the nine apartments face the courtyard and have

03 The five slabs have
slanted parts running from
the basement to the roof

04 The interior has

apartments with bright,
flowing spaces, which can be
closed off with curtains.



Development, scale 1:500

05 Steps up to the outdoor area: the roof terrace is
accessed via an exterior staircase that residents can use in a
variety of ways.

Top view of roof

Third floor

Second floor

gardens there, separated from the neighboring areas

by trellises with green vines. The other five units have
roof terraces; these private outdoor areas are also

Both outside and inside, this unusual construction

invites residents to use the steps as living spaces.
Ground floor, scale 1:500 The subtle dovetailing of the various units also makes
it difficult to identify the position of ones own apart-
ment from outside; the individual unit is perceived as
an integral part of the overall complex.


Apartment I
Office of Kumiko Inui | Tokyo 2007

128 m total floor area

5 units
18 m floor area per unit
1 occupant per unit

A tower with five apartments developed around a variable access core:

the necessary minimizing of the building volumes contributed to a solu-
tion that playfully reinterprets the principles of modernism and creates
individual living spaces.

01 The apartments flow

around the central access
core and maximize views of
the surroundings.

02 The basement apart-

ment is screened off by a

02 Site plan, scale 1:750

03 The access core provides the apart-
ments with room for technical equipment and
household appliances.
201 04 At their narrowest points, the apart-
ments are barely a meter wide.

05 Sketches by the architect: rendering of

the relationships between the views of resi-
dents, neighbors, and passersby in a standard
residence and in Apartment I.


Fourth floor

Third floor

Second floor

Ground floor, scale 1:250



In this residential neighborhood composed of small buildings

near the Hir train station in the Shibuya district, there are strict
rules for the size of building volumes and the placement of the
building on the lot. In order to create the five units demanded by the
client despite these restrictions, Kumiko Inui had to place one apart-
ment below ground.

On a lot of just forty-three square meters, the architect created

an all-glass tower in which each floor corresponds to one residential
unit. The access core, which houses the building systems, shifts
slightly from one level to the next, which permits individual floor
plans despite the compact form of the volume. The floor plans are
therefore more like continuous balconies than apartments: almost
everywhere the distance between the core and the facade is just

One challenge for contemporary architecture in Japan is to grow

out of the functionalism of Modernism, says Kumiko Inui.1 With
Apartment I she played with Modernist principles by reinterpreting
the elements of the building: The access core does not run through
continuously vertically but is rather slightly staggered on each floor.
Consequently, the alternative O- and U-shaped floor plans are laid
out a little differently on each floor. The relatively homogeneous
design of the facade delimits the interior but the full-height, open-
able windows ensure that the residents perceive the city as part of
their private space.

Kumiko Inui, in Bewohnte Naturen: Ioanna Angelidou im Gesprch mit Kumiko Inui,
in: Tokio: Die Stadt bewohnen, Arch+ 208 (August 2012): 5257, esp. 54.

Cross sections, scale 1:250

Yotsuya Tenera
Akira Koyama + Key Operation Inc. | Tokyo 2010

360 m total floor area

12 units
2033 m floor area per unit
13 occupants per unit

The close connection of the private outdoor areas to the bright stair-
wells results in semiprivate areas that increase interest in neighbors by
means of views in and chance meetings and hence encourage

01 Open on top: the

stairwells look like a bright
interim space thanks to their
many openings.

02 The surface of the

exposed concrete is achieved
with formwork of larch

Isometric drawing

Like many of Tokyos traditional residential neighborhoods, the 03 The entrance court-
area around Yotsuya train station still has narrow lanes and tightly yard has a well from the Edo
packed two-story dwellings. In the middle of this labyrinth of small
buildings lies the Yotsuya Tenera apartment house by the Tokyo 04 The balconies open
outward and toward the
firm Akira Koyama + Key Operation Inc. Its most striking feature is
the wood grain of the exposed-concrete facade, which shimmers
gently like velvet when lit from behind. The architect Akira Koyama
had originally planned a facade paneling of traditional Japanese
cedar. But the costs would have exceeded the budget, so in the end
an exposed-concrete facade was chosen, with larch plywood used
for the formwork.

The lot is composed of two rectangles, on which was placed a

nearly L-shaped volume. But rather than positioning the volume
so that it sits on the northern edge and is at a greater distance
from the neighboring lot to the southwest, the architect decided
to have an entrance court with plants in the northwest. This area,
where there is an old well from the Edo period, also serves as the
official escape route to which every residence must, in accordance
with Japanese buildings codes, have direct access without using the
shared stairwell.

Koyama calls the two stairwells tree-shaped voids. On the

ground floor they open onto the entrance court; they are terminated
on top by glass roofs. From inside they look like open spaces shoved


Ground floor, second floor, third floor, scale 1:250

05 06

05 Larch was also used for the built-ins between the towers of the apartments like spacers. The apart-
inside the apartments. ments are rather modest in size: they range between twenty and
06 Exposed concrete and wood elements thirty-three square meters. But each floor plan is unique.
contrast with walls and ceilings that are
painted white.
The same type of larch plywood used for the formwork of the
external walls was used for the built-in furniture inside. This simple
wood contrasts with the walls, most of which are painted white, and
the expensive wooden floors of high-grade oiled teak. A door leads
from the living room to a kind of loggia, though its small size makes
it more like a Juliet balcony.

Each of these balconies borders on one of the two stairwells

and can therefore be read as an extension of it. This private outdoor
space is thus in a sense attached to the public area of the apartment
house and vice versa. The stairwells are not only excellently lit and
ventilated but also offer exciting views through and in, which also
ensures that order reigns on the balconies, which in large Japanese
cities primarily serve as a place to store the air conditioner and to
hang laundry.

Cross section, scale 1:250

Shinichir Iwata Architect | Funabashi 2012

256 m total floor area

8 units
2838 m floor area per unit
12 occupants per unit

Shared and private access corridors are placed like a grid over this
one-story residential landscape and form striking sightlines and open
strips of light. Inside the individual units, the living areas are lined up
niche-like along these corridors.

01 The bright corridor

inside the apartments looks
like a small lane along which
various volumes are located.

02 Densely packed: the

rhythmically articulated site
includes an area with com-
mercial units (on the left in
the photograph).

Cross section, scale 1:500

A residential tapestry composed of eight units: In the 03 Two-story living area

M-Apartment in Funabashi, in Chiba prefecture, the floor plans of with continuous shelf
the individual apartments are intertwined so closely that a tightly 04 The private corridor
woven fabric results. At first, the function of the one-story building can be surveyed completely
from the common access
complex remains vague to the observer: rather than a collection of
individual apartments, one is more likely to suspect there is some
kind of dormitory behind this facade.

But Shinichir Iwata challenges not only the viewers but also the
residents of his building: Inside, the boundaries between public and
private space and the transitions between inside and outside are

Ground floor, top view of roof, scale 1:750

sometimes consciously blurred. For example, the shared and private

access lanes form a grid of sightlines and open strips of light.

The private corridors are accessed on both sides via glazed en-
trances. This transparency enables them to be surveyed completely
from outside indeed, even passersby can glimpse into the private
halls if the residents permit them.

In most of the apartments the light-flooded corridor is lined

with niches that house the kitchen, bathroom, and living room.
Only the courtyard-like terrace, which looks as it if had been
stamped out of the overall volume, is accessed indirectly as a rule.
Because there is no separate sleeping area, the multifunctional use
of the living area that is traditional in Japan is obligatory here.

Iwata varied the outward appearance of the one-story building

by designing the individual functional areas within the units to be
different heights: seen from the front, this staggering results in a
rhythmic articulation of the overall site, and the structure of the
building recalls the clay settlements of Asia.

NE apartment
Nakae Architects, Akiyoshi Takagi,
Ohno Japan | Tokyo 2007

289 m total floor area

8 units
2850 m floor area per unit
12 occupants per unit

Similar interests can mean that spatial proximity is not perceived as

oppressive but rather as enriching, as is the case with these row houses
designed for motorcycle enthusiasts, which are arranged facing a small
shared interior courtyard.

01 The interior courtyard

is large enough to accom-
modate a motorcycle.

02 Model of the eight

apartments: the curved inte-
rior walls support the loads
and reinforce the building.

02 Site plan, scale 1:5,000

The lot is accessed from the main road via a small private lane
that begins at the corner of the site and leads to the teardrop-
shaped courtyard. The special character of this housing complex
in the Suginami district of Tokyo can only be grasped from this
entrance in the northeast. From all other sides, the NE Apartment,
which was a collaboration between Nakae Architects, Akiyoshi
Takagi Architects, and Ohno Japan, looks like a closed cube that sits
as close to the neighboring buildings as possible.

The entrances to the eight units are arranged along the tear-
drop-shaped cutout; some of them extend across two stories and
others three. The building was developed for motorcycle enthusi-
asts: the individual units can open wide on the ground floor, offering
residents a garage for their bikes.

The structure is reinforced concrete and is supported by seven

internal walls. The shell, by contrast, is a curtain wall, which means

Ground floor, second floor, third floor

scale 1:250

03 Both entrance and

garage: on the ground floor
the facade can be opened
almost entirely.


Cross sections, scale 1:250

04 Exterior and interior

walls meet at right angles
tothe curved shell of the

05 The rooms are open

facing the courtyard via
ribbon windows of varied
heights; on the outside the
building presents a perfo-
rated facade.


the openings can be arranged freely. For the courtyard side the
architects chose ribbon windows of three different heights. Facing
the neighboring buildings, there is a punched facade with just a
few windows in a staggered arrangement. The exposed-concrete
walls inside are slightly curved but designed in such a way that
they always meet the exterior walls at nearly a right angle, which
among other things makes it easier to furnish the apartments with
standard-sized furniture.

The architects specified a target audience for their design and

adapted the floor plans to their needs. Because the apartments can
be used flexibly, however, even those without motorcycles will like
them. But it would benefit neighborly relationships if the apart-
ments in this coherent unity were indeed rented to people who
share a specific passion such as motorcycles.

Yuima-ru Nasu
+ New Office | Nasu 2011

3,528 m total floor area

70 units
3366 m floor area per unit
12 seniors per unit

The rapid demographic change in Japan demands solutions for housing

for the elderly. This model project seeks to achieve collective life for
seniors that takes into account the desire for relationships with neigh-
bors as well as the desire for a private sphere and serenity.

01 Facilities such as the

cafeteria create places for
the residents to meet.

02 The buildings with

individual residential units
are combined into groups
that together form a kind of
small village.

Statistics taken from Maren Godzik, Japan und Hardly any country is seeing demographic change progress as
der demografische Wandel: Leben und Wohnen in rapidly as Japans. Already today a fifth of the population is over
einer der am schnellsten alternden Gesellschaften
der Welt, BAGSO-Nachrichten: Das Magazin der sixty-five; prognoses presume that in twenty years this age group
Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Senioren-Organi will have grown to more than a third.1 Unlike the generations before
sationen, no. 2/2011: 4748. them, the elderly can no longer necessarily count on living with their
Yuima-ru is a term from the language of the children and being taken care of by them. Already today more sen-
original inhabitants of Okinawa, an island on iors are living alone or with their spouses than with their childrens
the far southwestern end of Japan, which can
families. How they want to spend the autumn of their lives is thus a
be roughly translated as mutual assistance,
collaboration. central topic for many.

One example of contemporary senior living is the Yuima-ru2

housing complex in Nasu, in the Tochigi Prefecture, a model project
by the Japanese government. The building complex is in the coun-
try a response to the fact that more and more older people wish to
move to more rural surroundings after a life spent working in the city.
Moreover, precisely because nonurban regions are suffering the most
from population decline as a result of demographic change, the influx
1 Daytime care center of pensioners could prevent entire villages from being deserted.
2 Cafeteria
3 Library
4 Multipurpose room The architects Kenji Seto and Sjun Kond of + New Office
5 Music room developed a village structure for this senior housing complex. Each

2 1

Site plan, scale 1:1,200

03 04

03 Living around the garden: the residents of the residential units is part of a house; the houses, in turn, are
can become active themselves and help part of several ensembles of buildings arranged around court-
design the flowerbeds.
yards that together convey an aesthetic and structural unity. The
04 The interiors of the apartments are buildings areboth constructed and paneled with wood from the
characterized by traditional elements from
region. Shared facilities such as a cafeteria, a library, a music room,
the Japanese culture of housing, such as slid-
ing doors, built-in cabinets, and translucent a multipurpose room, and a daytime care center are distributed
partitions. throughout the complex, helping to initiate movement and encoun-
ters in a natural way.

An arcade forms the transition between each courtyard and

the private residential units that surround it; it also provides a kind
of winter garden in the entry area to each home. The architects
describe this zone as an engawadoma. The term is composed of
two elements that characterize the traditional Japanese house: the
engawa, the narrow veranda that runs around the house, and the
doma, a hall with an earthen floor that is separated from the living
area by a step. Hence this area mediates between inside and out-
side and separates the interior into a private area and a semipublic
one. Residents can regulate the degree of openness vis--vis their

For this model project, future residents were integrated into the
planning stage. In workshops they discussed their needs, evaluated
the progress of construction, and established initial contacts with
other residents and the locals. This was an excellent point of depar-
ture to turn this into a place for a truly communal autumn of life.

Mitsuhiko Sat Architects | Kokubunji 2009

159m total floor area

3 units
ca. 35 m floor area per unit
12 occupants per unit

Three staggered cubes with loft-like apartments join to create a resi-

dential tower whose unusual form provides each resident with a
spacious, private outdoor space.

01 The terrace on the

ground floor is more like an
interior courtyard, given its
boundaries on the side and
the sparse planting; parking
places are hidden by the
screen on the left.

02 The apartments face

multiple directions.

Cross section, scale 1:200

Trois, a small multistory apartment building, lies in Kokubunji, a 03 The staggered ar-
city in the conurbation around Tokyo. The borders between the com- rangement of the volumes
produces terrace-like open
munities are fluid, and Kokubunji is a little less densely populated, spaces above the neighbors
so that unlike in the capital there are open spaces to be found here apartments.
and there.
04 Placed lower: the
ground floor apartment
In this environment, the architect Mitsuhiko Sat chose to es- is below the level of the
tablish a little distance from the neighbors in his design: He built the terrain.

volume of three units, executed with exposed concrete on the outer

walls, on a corner lot and left room on the north side for three park-
ing spaces. This is a luxury, since street parking is not permitted in

Ground floor, second floor, and third floor, scale 1:400

03 04

Japan. In larger cities and the densely populated areas around them,
residents often have to walk a long way to get to their cars.

The three volumes are stacked irregularly, with each floor hous-
ing a loft-like unit. Unlike the typical one-room apartments in large
Japanese cities, these homes are intended for people who either do
not regard living alone or in a couple as a transition stage or place a
certain value on housing in their lives.

The staggered arrangement allows the units to profit from one

another: the free projections serve as terraces or roofs for the unit
above or below. Each units private outdoor space faces a different
direction, which reinforces the sense of living in ones own home.

The shape of the small tower does not make one suspect that
there are two cores inside: the stairwell and the bathroom on each
floor are the two constants around which the floor plans are devel-
oped. In contrast to Kumiko Inuis Apartment I (see pp. 7073), here
it is the floor plan that dances around the two cores, rather than the
core wandering in the building and shaping the floor plans.

Dancing Trees,
Singing Birds
Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Architects | Tokyo 2007

685 m total floor area

6 units
ca. 55160 m floor area per unit
23 occupants per unit

For well-to-do residents of Tokyo, having a weekend home in the coun-

try is a matter of good taste. The feeling of living in and with nature can,
however, be produced in the city as well.

01 The Spa House ena-

bles its residents to bathe

02 Urban jungle: an
unbuilt slope with old trees
makes the building seem
close to nature despite its
central location.

Even if the photographs convey a different impression, Danc-
ing Trees, Singing Birds is indeed located in the middle of Tokyo.
But the trees around it have grown so dense that the surrounding
buildings in the Meguro District are largely obscured. Or at least they
are if one knows how to arrange the individual units as skillfully as
Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Architects.

The architects consistently allowed the design to be shaped by

the surrounding trees. Before beginning construction, tree experts
checked the condition of the roots, then the building was moved as
close to the plants as possible without threatening their survival.

03 The bright bathroom
of the Tea House unit wraps
around a tree.

04 The numerous bay

windows allow the building
to move as close to the trees
as possible on the south
side. Cross section, scale 1:500

The buildings many projections and indentations resulted from

simulations of growth and movement. Nakamura says that other
architects proceed as if a lot is fundamentally empty, even though
something certainly is there, and that was precisely what he wanted
to work out with his designs.

The building, paneled with Japanese cypress, houses six luxury

rental apartments. The building is on the back of the lot and is
accessed from the street via a cul-de-sac. A shared foyer on the
ground floor distributes access to the stairwells to the individual
units; two of the apartments on the upper story can also be
accessed via private elevators.

Nakamura developed each unit individually based on a theme:

On the ground floor the Pool House and the Spa House are sup-
plemented, respectively, by a pool and a bathing area that is open
above; the Theater House has a two-story area that can be used as
a home cinema. On the upper floor the Library House offers space
for books on long, built-in shelves. By contrast, the Tea House allows
the occupants to perform the tea ceremony in a transparent pavil-
ion. On the very top sits the Terrace House, which offers room for
receptions on an enormous roof terrace.

The long sides of the apartments have bay windows and an

nexes, which are attached to the living spaces like niches andare
Cross section of facade, scale 1:100

05 A built-in wall shelf in
the Library House provides
a place to store and display
books and magazines.

06 Mirror elements
make the rooms in the Spa
House seem larger and the
surrounding greenery look
more lush.


Dark green Pool House

Violet Spa House
Yellow Theater House
Bright blue Tea House
Bright green Library House
Red Terrace House Ground floor, second floor, third floor, scale 1:500


very close to the surrounding trees. On the short side facing south-
west there are terraces integrated into the building on the ground
floor and second floor; they extend the living space into the out-
doors and also frame the view.

The design turns an unprepossessing sloping lot into a kind of

unspoiled paradise, though the architect has played with the risk
that some of this quality will be lost if the surrounding buildings
change and move closer to the property or trees on neighboring lots
are felled.

CAt (C+A Tokyo) | Tokyo 2009

73.5 m and 78 m total floor area

12 units
1016 m floor area per unit
1 occupant per unit

Floor space per person has been growing continuously in industrial

nations for decades. In Japan, at least in large cities, a culture of living in
small spaces has been growing in parallel with this.

01 On the top floor

the rooms are also lit by a

02 The 12 Studiolo
are divided between two
volumes whose design is
perceived as a unity.

Site plan, scale 1:2,000 02

Kazuhiro Kojima and Kazuko Akamatsus 12 Stu-
diolo provides an example of how to organize housing
within the tiniest space. In two volumes with a base
of around thirty square meters each, they found room
for twelve tiny residential units. As a rule, less floor
Fifth floor
space means a lower rent; hence these minimum
dwellings represent a solution for people who want
to live affordably in the city, such as students or low-
salaried employees.

Each of the two towers, which form a unified

design, is accessed via a minicore of a half-spiral Fourth floor
staircase. Each unit extends across two levels and
is shaped as a continuous spatial module. Kojima
and Akamatsu developed this Space Blocks Design
Method in the 1990s and employed it for the first
time in their Space Blocks Kamishinj (1996). Because
its modules are so tiny, 12 Studiolo is only somewhat
comparable to the firms earlier buildings. Third floor

With their reduced size, the twelve units are

somewhat reminiscent of monastic cells. And the
architects did indeed analyze traditional Japanese
minimal spaces, such as tea pavilions in Kyoto, to
apply to their design. They were looking for ideas
Second floor

Ground floor, scale 1:250

03 In these minimal spaces, the private stairs are not just

for access but also serve as all-purpose furniture.

04 View from the washroom toward the bed niche and up-
per levels (third floor, unit in magenta on plan); the steps lead
to the bathtub.

03 04

Cross sections, scale 1:250

about how to place partition walls and arrange win-
dows, about which materials and lighting effects
would ensure that a small space developed a certain
magic. However, tearooms are designed to serve
guests, not to provide long-term living space for one
person. Hence such pavilions could scarcely serve as a
model for functional issues.

Inside, the apartments are characterized by a con-

trast of exposed concrete and white structured walls.
Moreover, the architects had shelves installed at regu-
lar distances on the walls for the residents to mount
equipment or use for storage. This makes furniture su-
perfluous, and with just ten to sixteen square meters,
there would not have been room for it anyway.

Find a blank space and extent in littleness

under that motto the residents are supposed to

Exploded isometric drawing


05 Standards are placed on the walls at a ppropriate the twelve apartments like hermits do
regular intervals so that residents can mount their little caves. Such an extreme reduction of living
storage shelves, for example.
space seems to be marginal even in Japan; however,
06 Bathroom on top floor (light blue on the careful design of the floor plan and space may
the plan): Theres not much room to move help someone forget the lack of floor space for a
your legs when on the toilet, but you can
shower with a view of the exterior. while.

Onagawa Container
Temporary Housing
Shigeru Ban Architects (VAN) | Onagawa 2011

5,671m total floor area

190 units
2040m floor area per unit
15 occupants per unit

Temporary housing after natural catastrophes should be affordable and

available for the short term. When building this housing complex in
Onagawa, the topographic context and the desire to make room for
community entered the planning as well.

01 Facilities like this

studio can be used by all
the residents.

02 Container village on
a baseball field: within two
and a half months, tempo-
rary replacement apart-
ments were constructed for
190 families.

03 04

After the catastrophe of an earthquake and tsunami on

March11, 2011, there was demand for affordable short-term hous-
ing that could be made available quickly. As a rule, single-story
prefabricated modules of wood or steel are employed. One problem,
however, was posed by Japans topography: flat planes at sufficient
altitude to place standard units were not available in many places.
That was true, for example, of the municipality of Onagawa in the
Miyagi Prefecture, a town with ten thousand residents where the
tsunami destroyed around four thousand houses. One solution for
this problem was provided by the Voluntary Architects Network
(VAN), a network of architecture students founded by Shigeru Ban
that uses architecture to support the victims of the catastrophe.
Isometric drawing

The architects selected shipping containers as the basic module

for this temporary housing colony and combined them into slab
structures two to three stories tall. As a result, roughly 190 families
found a new home in the relatively limited area of a baseball field
the municipality had decided to sacrifice this sports ground to the
construction of emergency housing.

The buildings are arranged in a checkerboard pattern: between

each of the narrow containers is a void formed by the simple
frame. This additional space is completed glazed on one short side,
while the other side has the entrance to the apartments. The closed
surfaces are clad with colorful fiber-cement panels.

03 Containers were used to build the
community house as well.

04 Residential unit of 29 square meters:

the furniture was built by students or
donated by companies.

Exploded isometric drawing

The entire colony was built in around two and a half months.
In choosing the sizes of the apartments, the architects followed
the dimensions on the governments standard emergency housing:
There are three units, measuring twenty, twenty-nine, and forty
square meters. The smallest apartment was intended for one or two
occupants; the middle one for three or four; and the largest for fami-
lies with more than four members. In contrast to traditional emer-
gency housing, the decision was made in Onagawa to design and
in some cases build the furnishings for the apartment as well. VAN
was hoping in this way to keep residents from purchasing standard
furniture, for which there was scarcely room in the very narrow con-
tainers and which would therefore have been in the way.

Shared facilities were provided along with the housing: a large

tent in the center functions as a market hall; there is also a commu-
nity house for events and a studio, which can be used for classes, for
example. VAN continued to follow the project even after comple-
Apartment types tion and used surveys to try to determine the positive and negative
scale 1:400
experiences of the residents of this temporary housing so that this
information could flow back into future planning.

BE-FUN DESIGN + TAS-S | Tokyo 2012

161m total floor area

4 units
ca. 40m floor area per unit
12 occupants per unit

Complex urban structures as model: From a conventionally designed

ground floor the spaces of these four row houses develop spirally
upward around the buildings central axis.

01 On the top floor of

every unit there is a stepped
shelf; a ladder leads to the
sleeping gallery.

Site plan, scale 1:500

02 The building takes up the line of the
existing buildings, which results in a small
yard in front of the building.

03 The four apartments are articulated

similarly: the kitchen is on the second floor in
all the units.

Cross section, scale 1:250

From business center to the thicket of housing: From Kameido

train station, Alley House is reached via various streets that become
ever narrower and end up as a traditional structure of lanes. The
blocks of houses frame a road that is sometimes barely wider than
1.80 meters, and they include a heterogeneous collection of small
residences whose residents happily appropriate the lanes.

Although the existing building line would have permitted mov-

ing closer to the street, the architects brought Alley House back so
that the building forms a line with the other buildings on the block.
The order of the neighborhood, which derives by chance from its
chaotic juxtapositions, is thus taken up and continued. At the same
time, the architects created a front yard that can be used to park
bicycles, for example.

The buildings of the neighborhood casually feature different

colors. The surroundings are characterized by many different indi-
vidual elements, such as flowerpots and bicycles placed in front of
02 the houses; together with the architectural fabric, they produce an
overall impression of many small parts. Its outward appearance in-
tegrates Alley House into this collage: The paneling on the facade of
this structure based on wooden posts takes up different colors from
the neighboring buildings and reproduces them at irregular intervals.
The driveway, with its circular, planted beds continues in its own
way the landscape of potted plants.

Central perspective

04 Cleverly rotated: the
living room of the north-
ernmost unit on the ground
floor (in green on the plan)
faces southeast.

05 Stairway from the

kitchen to the living room

06 Sleeping gallery and

shelf on the top floor

05 06
Fourth floor

The four doors facing the street seem almost mysterious to

Third floor the passing viewer, since the floors above them do not continue to
follow the type of a collective apartment building, and no staircases
are apparent. The building was in fact developed for four house-
holds, but rather than arranging the rooms in a vertical sequence,
as is usual with row houses, the architects developed the floor plan
of the individual apartments like a spiral around the entire width of
the lot. As a result, each unit faces at least three directions, so that
the individual resident derives a feeling from the views outward and
lighting that is reminiscent of a single-family home.

The residents climb up to their homes via stairs that on the

residential floors have a dimension like that of the street in front of
Second floor
the house. Along the way they present various views outward; the
windows offer views of different neighboring buildings. According to
the architects, the path through the house is intended to reflect the
qualities of traditional lanes: ones own possessions become, like
the neighbors bicycles and plants, part of the overall picture.

Ground floor, scale 1:250

Sakura Apartment
Hitoshi Wakamatsu Architects | Tokyo 2011

1,042m total floor area

11 units
3281 m floor area per unit
15 occupants per unit

This building looks like an organic structure to which the architect has
assigned functions. Each apartment is composed of several spatial cells;
the spaces in between can be appropriated by the residents .

01 On the top floor, the

space in between is not com-
pletely covered; the spatial
cells seem like bungalows.

02 From outside, it is
difficult to say which areas
belong together.


The base of this six-story building on a slope recalls the founda- 03 In some places the building is more
tion of a Japanese fortress: loose natural stone behind an expanded- reminiscent of a vacation home than a
multistory apartment building: view of the
metal grate makes the ground floor seem relatively closed vis--vis building from the roof of the northernmost
the street. On the second floor the metal elements continue as a volume.
fence around several narrow gardens.
04 Rounded corners and large openings
define the interior of the spatial cells.
Sakura Apartment is located on a corner lot in the Meguro Dis-
trict of Tokyo. The reinforced-concrete structure appears to consist
of seven towers that are cut through by horizontal slabs at regular
intervals. This results in cells in which the architect Hitoshi Waka-
matsu accommodated eleven residential units and access routes to

The apartments look fragmented: each unit is composed of

several spatial modules connected via glass corridors or indoor stair-
ways. Each floor accommodates a maximum of three households.

Sixth floor

The central area is not completely surrounded by apartments but

rather runs to the edges of the building in a somewhat star-like
form. As a result, despite the buildings great volume, the struc-
ture appears to be composed of many small parts and open to the
outside. This area not only provides access but can also be used as a
terrace by all the residents on the floor.
Fifth floor

Between the cells, however, these areas are either separated by

a transparent corridor or tend to be assigned to the adjacent unit.

Fourth floor

Third floor

The further up one goes, the larger and more comfortable the
one- to three-story apartments become, and the brighter the areas
in between. On the top floor the floor panel has been cut out so that
sunlight can illuminate the floor below for general use, even close to
the central elevator. The two highest units have galleries and a roof
garden, respectively.
Second floor

Inside the building, the built space and the space in between
combine to form a residential landscape composed of areas clearly
for private use, transition zones, and semipublic areas. The focus is
not on the buildings function but on its structure. The architecture
was intended not just to serve the residents but also to open up
new possibilities for living.

Ground floor, scale 1:750

Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office | Tokyo 2010

ca. 500m2 total floor area

11 units
2540 m / 5580 m floor area per unit
13 occupants per unit

A house like a landscape: Formulating the volume of the building on the

model of a mountain chain results in residential units that differ inside
and invite individuals to appropriate them.

01 View into the abyss:

the individual units and the
roof terrace are accessed
by external stairways
embedded in the canyon-like

Site plan, scale 1:2,000


The dark exposed concrete looms upward like a stone massif:

Alp, as Akihisa Hirata calls this multistory apartment building in
northern Tokyo, lies on a narrow street on a hill. Behind it extends
a small park that belongs to the local Buddhist temple. Only to the
west is there an immediately adjacent neighbor, and even that is a
recent development.

We would like to rethink the architecture not as the act to

roduce an area like a box, but as a folded surface created by
the movement of the ground, as Hirata describes his design.
Projections, indentations, and a complex landscape of roofs are
intended to create a volume whose folds define the living space
inside. The open access area, which runs through the center of the
volume and thus seems a little like a ravine, also influences the
design of the units: The diagonals of the steps are reflected inside
some of the apartments and help to shape the space. The exterior
forms the interior, as the interior forms the exterior, for example,
as a result of the need to place the windows or to arrange access in
a sensible way.

Scheme for closed volume Scheme for divided volume

02 Dark concrete and folds make the building look like a
massive rock when seen from the west, if not for the openings
that point to life inside.

03 Access area on the second floor: cave-like indentations

frame the entrances to the apartments.

Top view of roof

Third floor

Second floor

Ground floor, scale 1:500 03

Cross section, scale 1:500


Most of the eleven apartments are suitable primarily for singles;

only two apartments, one on the ground floor and one on the third
floor, have more spacious layouts. The latter even has a roof terrace
that is accessed from the bathroom via an outdoor staircase.

In a sense, Hiratas design offers an alternative to a schematic

architecture whose spaces are based on a notion of human needs
decided by others. He does not know the future residents or their
individual wishes but he does not want to submit to any purely func-
tional dogma. The residents will be able to appropriate the living
spaces created in Alp-like caves.

04 The outer skins forms the interior space; this is particularly clear on the
third floor.

05 On the second floor, by contrast, the steps to the apartments above form
and articulate the spaces.

Komatsunagi Terrace
Mitsuhiko Sat Architects | Tokyo 2012

1,208 m total floor area

11 units
ca. 55100 m floor area per unit
14 occupants per unit

This building developed for a building cooperative enables the residents

to react flexibly to changes in their surroundings and within the family.
The metallic shell is intended to be an interface between the private
apartments and the city.

01 The metallic facade

surrounds the climate shell
like a semitransparent veil.

02 Beginning with the

second floor, the perforated
metal facade defines the
volume of the building.

A shell of expanded metal and a ground floor largely closed off
from the street make this building in the Setagaya District of Tokyo
seem compact and unified. One begins to suspect that it was built
for a building cooperative only after seeing the floor plans for apart-
ments of many different types and layouts. Penthouse

The lattice shell with its regular openings sits in front of a con-
tinuous balcony that recalls an engawa, the veranda of traditional
Japanese houses. This area is more than just a private outdoor
space; the air conditioner and boiler are located here (in Japan the
building systems are almost always decentralized and used by each
individual unit). The climate shell proper, a full-height glass facade, Fourth floor
is attached to the balcony.

The four maisonette apartments, which develop from the

basement to the ground floor, do not have a grille in front; bushes
planted on the edges of the lot block all too direct views in. The
entry area, the corridor that provides access to the apartments, and
the entrance to the central stairwell are arranged cross-like on the Third floor
ground floor. On the upper floors the corridors run east-west and
are largely open to the balconies. The top floor is a penthouse with a
large roof terrace and can be reached via the central stairwell.

It was important to the clients that the floor plans be easily

adaptable to changes in family relationships if necessary. For that
Second floor

Ground floor, scale 1:750

03 Basement


03 Curtains further reason, the architect chose a mixed construction: the reinforced-
control the degree of trans- concrete ceilings are primarily supported by steel columns; the load-
parency (in this case on the
fourth floor). bearing structure is reinforced in the facade area by diagonal struts.
All the interior walls are therefore nonbearing and hence variable.
04 The continuous This also permitted a continuous glass facade, which can be adapted
balcony is reminiscent of an
engawa, the veranda of tra- to individual preferences with curtains. The residents can thus re-
ditional Japanese buildings. spond to changes in the neighborhood such as demolition and new

When planning the building the architect and clients asked,

among other things, how a multistory apartment building should
relate to the outside in a dense residential area. The double shell can
be seen as a compromise: from the street it is still clear that people
live here but each resident can preserve his or her private sphere.
Sat interprets the expanded-metal facade as a kind of interface
that mediates between the city and the private apartments.

Shakujii Pleats
Makiko Tsukada Architects | Tokyo 2010

538.5m total floor area

6 units
6897m floor area per unit
34 occupants per unit

In the narrow canyons between the four volumes, interior and exterior
are tightly interwoven. These in-between spaces provide access but are
used privately, not collectively: the upper area is assigned to a different
unit than the lower one.

01 Steps and layers: a

complex landscape of steps
spans out between the
building volumes.

02 When the metal shut-

ters are closed, the building
resembles a fortification.

03 Between walls of the
concrete bricks in the living
areas, the canyon that
provides access looks bright
and light.

04 Single glass bricks

are integrated into the
solid masonry around the
Cross section, scale 1:250

At first glance, Shakujii Pleats, in the Nerima District of Tokyo,

looks like a conventionally articulated multistory apartment build-
ing. Four residential blocks appear to be accessed by three shared
stairwells located between them. In fact, however, these stairs
serve as an extension of the living space: the architect Makiko
Tsukada has divided each of them between two households. Hence
these areas are a mix of individual entry area and winter garden.

The housing complex is somewhat reminiscent of a fortress:

concrete blocks in two colors form a massive wall, conveying stabil-
ity and durability. The openings can be closed by hand with large
shutters, which are similar in color to the concrete blocks. Tsukada
leaves it to the residents whether and to what extent they want to
open their private spaces to the outside world.

But the building does not look off-putting even when all the
shutters are closed. The scale of the wall, the texture of the blocks,
and the stripe pattern resulting from the two colors of the concrete
guarantee that.
05 06

05 The interim space,

which is partly open on top,
also catches the light

06 which benefits the

Third floor basement in particular.

07 In combination
with wooden furniture and
tatami mats, the walls seem
only half as rough.

08 Along the way from

room to room, residents
Second floor
experience different levels
of brightness and lighting

Ground floor, scale 1:500



The surroundings play only a subordinate role for this ensemble;

the architect developed maisonettes that will retain their qualities
no matter how the neighborhood changes. The spaces in between
mediate to two sides each, with the apartments they join located
diagonally from each other: the lower unit accessed from this area
is assigned to the part of the building to the north, while the up-
per unit extends from the stairwell to the south. There are special
solutions for both ends of the building: on the south end, there is a
garage on the ground floor; on the north end, there is a three-story
unit. The residents of the latter unit and of the maisonettes on the
upper floors have a roof terrace.

With her design, Tsukada is primarily seeking to ensure a liv-

ing environment with as little disturbance from the neighbors and
the surroundings as possible. The individual stairs in the spaces in
between are also cleanly demarcated; nevertheless, the openness
of these areas shared by two parties permits contact between resi-
dents. By choosing permanence as its defining motto, moreover,
she contrasts Shakujii Pleats with the rather shoddily constructed
buildings in the surroundings, which are thus particularly at risk of
being demolished.

Applause Azabu
SALHAUS | Tokyo 2012

442.5m total floor area

8 units
2042m floor area per unit
12 occupants per unit

Buildings in Japan are far more likely to be torn down rather than
renovated. But building with the existing fabric is slowly becoming more
important, for example, with residential architecture, when the mono
tonous remnants of the years of economic boom are transformed into
contemporary urban building blocks.

01 The relief-like ceramic

facade ensures an interplay
of light and shadow that
enlivens the skin.

02 Current Japanese
building codes would have
granted a new building less
floor area, which protects
the existing fabric from

Five floors, a brown ceramic facade facing the street, a strict
grid on the facade: this building from 1978 is a typical example of
the rental apartment buildings produced after the Second World
War when the Japanese economy was booming. This building has
long since lost its raison dtre in its central location in Azabujban,
in the Minato District of Tokyo. As a rule, the owners in such cases
insist on demolishing the building to make room for new, profitable
apartments. But even in Japan there is an effort to preserve existing
buildings by exempting them from new codes: a new building in ac-
cordance with todays codes would have to make do with consider-
ably less rentable floor area.

Consequently, the architects chose to hollow out the building,

adding an elevator and renovating the facades. The building now
presents a completely new face to the street. A reinforced-concrete
Site plan, scale 1:2,500

Fifth floor of existing building

Second to fourth floors of existing building

03 Ground floor of existing building

Fifth floor

Third and fourth floor

Second Floor

Ground Floor, scale 1:500 04

03 Before the reconstruc-

tion: the use of the building
and the way the spaces
belong together are clearly

04 After the renovation:

the new facade is diversely
articulated and leaves open
what the building conceals.

05 Bright ceramic ele-

ments and tiles make the
entry seem homey.

Cross section, scale 1:250


06 The sublayers were curtain wall that looks like a passe-partout has been placed in front.
left rough everywhere, con- The new front gives depth to the balconies; the window openings
trasting with the refurbished
surfaces. continue around the corners. Small square ceramic elements ar-
ranged like a relief were used as cladding, structuring the facade.
07 In Japan, apartments
The two side facades of reinforced concrete were retained and
with an integrated home
workplace are called SOHO. painted dark with water-repellent paint.
In the Applause Azabu,
this type of apartment is
assigned to the western half
Inside there are three different types of floor plans after the
of the building (third and renovation: three standard units with two rooms, a kitchen, and a
fourth floors). bathroom; two studios with combined living and sleeping area; and
three units with a small office space (SOHO). The planners were
responding to the increased need in Japan as well for people who
telecommute or are self-employed. The commercial spaces, which
were already part of the original building, were retained, as was a
common roof terrace on the top floor.

The interiors of the apartments are distinguished by oak par-

quet floors and various wooden built-ins. Here too it is clear this is a
renovated building: the architects chose not to recover the exposed
joists. Because they were not originally intended to be exposed, the
concrete is spotty and rough. The contrast makes these luxuri-
ously refurbished apartments look like lofts in former industrial

Static Quarry

554m total floor area

8 units
4070 m floor area per unit
14 occupants per unit

A meditative interior courtyard regulates the distance between the

units. Terraces, balconies, and roof gardens enable the residents to
make themselves at home both inside and outside.

01 Nearly all the

openings face the shared

02 From outside the

building looks as if ashlar
had been cut from a solid
block at irregular intervals.


A quiet garden in the center: The row houses of the Static

uarry in Takasaki, in Gunma Prefecture, are grouped around a
courtyard. Gravel and rocks recall the stone gardens of Zen Bud-
dhism were it not for the looming bamboo plants arranged at
regular distances that enliven the exterior space.

For the architect Takashi Fujin, however, it is not the garden

but rather the theme of neighborhood that is the focus of the de-
sign. His colony of row houses is intended to function like a small
city in which everyone can find the balance of privacy and social
Site plan, scale 1:5,000

03 The residents reach the roof terrace

from the balconies via a simple climbing
construction composed of handgrips.

04 View into the apartment on the north-

east corner on the second floor: on the left,
two steps lead to the balcony; on the right,
the bathroom sits in a box.
Top view of roof

Cross section, scale 1:250

integration that is appropriate for him or her. The background,

among other things, is the constantly growing number of single
households in Japan, which ensures that the everyday life of the
individual is marked by extremes: in their own apartments, as a rule,
they are maximally sheltered from the outside world, while in urban
space they are surrounded by a mass of unknown people.

The architect compares the volume that brings together the

eight row houses to a quarry, since the empty spaces of the site of
Second floor bright exposed concrete look like they have been cut out of the vol-
ume. Nearly all of the windows are facing inward toward the shared
courtyard. Its crunching gravel and sparing design do not exactly
invite one to spend time there; rather, the garden is more like a neu-
tral spacer between the residential units.

The neighbors are not supposed to see one another as distur-

bances but rather as welcome surroundings: they present their
individuality to one another by the way they design and use their
terraces and loggias. The large openings on the ground floor mean
that even passersby can catch a glimpse of the courtyard.

The residents of the row houses have a private outdoor space

on each floor: on the ground floor there is a parking place that can
also be used as a workspace; on the second floor there is a loggia;
and at the top there is a roof terrace. The white concrete forms a
calm, neutral background for living, which takes place both indoors
and outdoors.

Ground floor, scale 1:500

Apartment in
Takeshi Yamagata Architects | Tokyo 2008

381m total floor area

9 units
3060m floor area per unit
12 occupants per unit

An ensemble of four volumes takes up the small scale of its surround-

ings. On the ground floor, thanks to a combination of two principles of
articulation, the exterior and the interior enter into a close relationship.

01 White fences the

height of one floor delimit
the private open spaces of
the residents from the com-
mon areas.

02 The buildings take up

the intricate structure of the


Site plan, scale 1:3,000

Ground floor, second floor, scale 1:500

03 Every unit is accessed The architects responded to the site in the Setagaya District of
by a separate entrance; Tokyo characterized by single-family homes with a small-scale solu-
often there is a stairway or
private garden as an entry tion: Rather than a single large volume, they created four volumes
area. with nine residential units, each with its own entrance. Five of these
rental units are accessed from the street and the others from a
semipublic area that snakes around the property in an S-shape.

The individual volumes are two to four floors tall and are slightly
staggered on the property. One characteristic feature is the design
of the ground floor, where Yamagata introduced fences follow-
ing curved lines as an additional element of articulation. They
demarcate a private outdoor space for each of the ground-floor

Cross sections, scale 1:500

04 On the ground floor
the interior walls represent
the continuation of the
curved fences and thus
produce new spatial connec-
tions (unit depicted in bright
green on the plan).

05 Transparent walks on
the ground floor connect the
spaces divided by the differ-
ent volumes (unit depicted
in bright blue on the plan).


a partments. Inside, these lines continue as drywall, creating the im-

pression that the fences penetrate the outer walls of the boxes.

This results in apartments that feature not only curved inte-

rior walls but also very unconventional layouts: several units even
extend to the next volume via corridors. In contrast to the upper
floors, which have somewhat less spectacular, loft-like apartments
and maisonettes, the ground floor is very transparent to the exte-
rior and has only the expanded-metal fences for privacy.

The volumes and fences are connected by horizontal braces

between the ground floor and second floor, which stabilizes the
overall structure in the case of an earthquake. Each of the two
maisonette apartments that extend from the third to the fourth
floor has a generous terrace on the roofs of the two lower volumes.
The diversity of floor plans, separate access, and the spatial lines
produce individual apartments that offer singles and young couples
an alternative to living in single-family homes.

Daisan-Hachiai Building 1F Gaien Building 5F
534 Tsurumaki-ch, Waseda, Shinjuku-ku 2-18-7 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo, 162-0041 Tokyo, 150-0001
Phone +81-3-6380-3634 Phone +81-3-3403-0336
Fax +81-3-6380-3635 Fax +81-3-3403-0337
plusnewoffice.com www.hsgwg.com


Yaraicho Terrace 101, Yaraicho 37, Shinjuku-ku 5-25-7-2F Komozawa, Setagaya-ku
Tokyo, 162-0805 Tokyo, 154-0012
Phone +81-3-5206-5524/+81-3-3266-9971 Phone +81-3-6805-4051
Fax +81-3-3266-9965 Fax +81-3-6805-4075
a-st.net www.nakam.info


NC-Bldg. 2F, 6-6-22 Minami-aoyama, Minato-ku FW Bldg. 101, 7-16-3 Fukasawa, Setagaya-ku
Tokyo, 107-0062 Tokyo, 158-0081
Phone +81-3-3409-1455 Phone +81-3-5706-0531
Fax +81-3-3409-1458 Fax +81-3-5706-0537
www.hao.nu www.hwaa.jp


1711-1-103 Aritamaminami-machi 323-1 Kaizawa-machi, Takasaki-shi
Higashi-ku, Hamamatsu-shi Gunma, 370-0042
Shizuoka, 431-3122 sites.google.com/site/ikimonokenchiku
BE-FUN DESIGN 4F Doors Bldg., 3-19-10 Takaban, Meguro-ku
Tsuyoshi Shindo, Tsutomu Hasegawa Tokyo, 152-0004
Be-Fun Building, 5-56-4 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku Phone +81-3-5724-0061
Tokyo, 151-0053 Fax +81-3-5724-0062
Phone +81-6423-2980 www.keyoperation.com
Fax +81-6423-2981
Takeshi Komada, Yuka Komada
CAt / C+A TOKYO Nishikasai apartments 401
Kazuko Akamatsu, Kazuhiro Kojima 7-29-10 Nishikasai , Edogawa-ku
4F 1-20-5 Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku Tokyo, 134-0088
Tokyo, 150-0021 Phone +81-3-5679-1045
Phone +81-3-5489-8264 Fax +81-3-5679-1046
Fax +81-3-5458-6117 www.komada-archi.info

6-12-15 Shimoshakujii, Nerima-ku Masashi Hino, Mari Tochizawa, Motoki Yasuhara
Tokyo, 177-0042 1-4-1-606 Higashi, Shibuya-ku
Phone +81-3-5372 7584 Tokyo, 150-0011
Fax +81-3-5372 7862 Phone / Fax +81-3-3498-4222
makikotsukada-architects.jp salhaus.com


2-15-15-4F Takanawa, Minato-ku 5-2-4 Matsubara, Setagaya
Tokyo, 108-0074 Tokyo, 156-0043
Phone: +81-3-5795-4052 Phone +81-3-3324-6760
Fax +81-3-5795-4053 Fax +81-3-3324-6789
www.msaa.jp www.shigerubanarchitects.com


Karasawa Bldg 3F, 1-3-4 Momoi, Suginami-ku 3-1-1201, Toyo 2-chome, Koto-ku
Tokyo, 167-0034 Tokyo, 135-0016
Phone +81-3-6913-5762 www.iwata-arch.com
Fax +81-3-6913-5763
Ichikawa Seihon building 6F
OFFICE OF KUMIKO INUI / Kumiko Inui 10-3 Higashienoki-cho, Shinjuku-ku
3-57-6-303 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku Tokyo, 162-0807
Tokyo, 151-0053 Phone +81-3-3513-5401
Phone +81-3-3303-2971 Fax +81-3-3513-5402
Fax +81-3-3373-2972 www.sou-fujimoto.net
OHNO JAPAN / Hiroshi Ohno Yaraicho Terrace 101, Yaraicho 37, Shinjuku-ku
Royal Mansion 304, 1-32-5 Uehara, Shibuya-ku Tokyo, 162-0805
Tokyo, 151-0064 Phone +81-3-3266-9971
Phone +81-3-5452-3180 Fax +81-3-3266-9965
Fax +81-3-5452-3181 homepage2.nifty.com/sds
ON DESIGN PARTNERS/ Osamu Nishida 2-3-2-3F Koenji-minami, Suginami-ku
Utoku building No. 405 Tokyo, 166-0003
6-85 Benten street, Naka-ku, Yokohama Phone +81-3-3313-4103
Kanagawa, 231-0007 Fax +81-3-3313-4104
Phone +81-45-650-5836 www.t-yamagata.jp
Fax +81-45-650-5837


Claudia Hildner

Claudia Hildner was born in Munich in 1979 and studied architecture at the
Technische Universitt Mnchen and the University of Tokyo. Since 2007 she has
been working as a freelance architectural journalist, writing many essays for pro-
fessional publications. Until 2009 she was a member of the editorial staff of the
e-magazine for the website german-architects.com, and until 2012 she was editor
of the architectural journal Metamorphose. She has contributed to several books as
author and/or editor. Her most recent book, Small Houses: Contemporary Japanese
Dwellings, was published by Birkhuser (2011). The publication was preceded by an
extended research visit in Tokyo. www.childner.de

Evelyn Schulz

Evelyn Schulz is professor of Japanese studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-

Universitt in Munich. Her work focuses on the literature and culture of modern
Japan. Her research is dedicated to, among other subjects, the urbanist discourse
there, which has recently included strategies for deceleration and how to represent
it in the media.


Arch+ 208, Tokio: Die Stadt bewohnen. Issue 8/2012. Nihon Kenchiku Gakkai: Seikatsukei: Mijikana keikan kachi no hakken
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Cover: Kenichi Suzuki, Chiba p. 5863: Tar Hirano, Tokyo

p. 12, 23: Evelyn Schulz, Munich p. 6469: Toshihiro Sobajima, Tokyo
p. 14: Claudia Hildner, Munich p. 7072, 98103: Daici Ano, Tokyo
p. 15, 3439, 4851: Iwan Baan, Amsterdam p. 7479: KEY OPERATION INC./ARCHITECTS / Toshihiro Sobajima
p. 1617: bpk / Museum fr Asiatische Kunst, SMB / Jrgen Liepe p. 8083, 9093: Ippei Shinzawa, Saitama
p. 18: Robert Andreas Drude, Munich p. 8489: Hiro Sakaguchi, Tokyo
p. 20: Utagawa Hiroshige (Ando) (Japanese, 1797-1858). Nihonbashi, p. 9497: Mitsuhiro Sat Architects & Associates, Tokyo
Clearing After Snow, No. 1 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 5th p. 104109: Hiroshi Ueda, Tokyo
month of 1856. Woodblock print, Image: 13 3/8 x 8 3/4 in. (34 x p. 110113: Hiroyuki Hirai, Tokyo
22.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Anna Ferris, 30.1478.1 p. 130133: Mitsuhiro Sat Architects & Associates,
p. 24: Mori Building Co., Ltd. Tokyo / Hiroshi Ueda
p. 25: Tokyo Urban Ring, Koh Kitayama Studio, Y-GSA / Yokohama p. 137: Makiko Tsukada Architects, Tokyo / Shinkenchiku-sha
Graduate School of Architecture, Yokohama National University p. 140, 143 top, 145: Toshiyuki Yano
p. 2831, 32 bottom, 33, 114119: BE-FUN DESIGN, Tokyo / p. 141, 143 bottom, 144: Makoto Yoshida, Tokyo
Hiroyuki Hirai p. 142: SALHAUS, Tokyo
p. 32 top: BE-FUN DESIGN, Tokyo p. 146149: IKIMONO ARCHITECTS, Takasaki / Takashi Fujino
p. 4043, 120123, 134, 136139: Kenichi Suzuki, Chiba p. 150, 154: Takeshi Yamagata Architects, Tokyo / Daici Ano
p. 4447: ON design partners, Yokohama / Kichi Torimura p. 151: Takeshi Yamagata Architects, Tokyo / Takeshi Yamagata
p. 5257, 124129: Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office / Toshiyuki Yano p. 152, 155: Takeshi Yamagata Architects, Tokyo / Shinkenchiku-sha

Claudia Hildner
Future Living, Collective Housing in Japan

Translation: Steven Lindberg

Copy editing: Keonaona Peterson

Project management: Katharina Kulke

Layout, cover design, and typography:

Bjrn Maser, Stuttgart, www.minimalist.cn

Pre Press: Florian Hch, Stuttgart, www.hoech.net

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