Location: Ohta-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Architect: SANAA

To those that call it home and others whom have never been, Tokyo is understood as a place of extremes. One might assume there are no zoning laws when scanning the city, witnessing the dense clusters of housing next to impossibly tall office towers and interweaving power lines. The great majority of its housing appears worn out like an old shoe, tolerant but ultimately exhausted by the stimuli of the city.

Moriyama House is the shiny needle in the haystack of its Ohta-ku neighborhood. It is the work of SANAA, a Japanese firm founded by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, known around the world for their clean and thoughtful approaches to contemporary living. Their trademark is an arctic white palette and the thinnest window frames available.

moriyama house

Image Source: midorisyu on flickr

The house has a square footage that is considerably larger than that of its neighbors. SANAA did not want the house to stand out for its size, but rather its sterility, and so they had to be clever when they were placing it onto its corner lot. Rather than produce one large cubic mass, the architects broke it up into 11 individual buildings, producing the urban effect of a village or campus. Even the bathrooms are separated in their own buildings, and resemble minimalist outhouses.

The separate buildings are, for the most part, able to accommodate any function from bedroom, to living room, to office. The architects even considered that the owners of the house might want to rent some of the rooms out to travelers and sub-leasers. They each have ample light from big square windows, while all of the permanent fixtures are remarkably thin and lightweight. The result, in the taller buildings, is the feeling of a treehouse. The walkways between the rooms are bravely unsheltered and ungated in order to amplify the visual appearance of a campus house. Instead, the exterior hallways are minimally landscaped with dwarf trees and gravel.

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According to the architects, the intention of the house was an experiment in “choice.” They write, “In this house, the client is given the freedom to decide which part of this cluster of rooms is to be used as residence or as rental rooms. He may switch among the series of living rooms and dining rooms or use several rooms at a time according to the season or other circumstances. The domain of the residence changes after his own life. I am thinking of creating a house in which the client may enjoy various spaces and lifestyles, by not fixing the place of dwelling onto a particular spot in this house.”

Moriyama House was last modified: August 23rd, 2018 by Shane Reiner-Roth

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