A simple affair involving layers, spatial planning and minimal décor transcends to exemplary architecture in a contemporary Japanese style.
Set on an elevated site with the view of Kobe Sea, in the quiet streets of Konan, Japan, is a small residence with an unassuming vertical façade and geometric simplicity that captures you. Designed by Japanese architect Akiyoshi Nakao of Osaka based firm, Coo Planning, the 75 square metre house incorporates traditional and contemporary elements within an unadorned box, giving no clue whatsoever about the happenings inside of the walls.
Constraints like budget, neighbouring structures on both sides of the site and level difference between the site and road influenced the project and resulted in a vertical design. In addition, according to architect Akiyoshi Nakao, the client’s requirements were strained to a minimum which became the baseline for the architectural design.
The house is designed in layers, each layer entwined through voids and views that hold the abode together. All the spatial requirements of the client are fitted into four layers – four floors and a mezzanine level, in a simple but effective vertical composition.
The lowest floor, houses the garage that is in actuality the concrete foundation of the structure which is at road level. Alongside are the steps leading to the entrance on the second level where beyond the small foyer is a tatami room, a bedroom and an elegant a wooden staircase.
While the entrance hallway, a ‘tatami’ room and a bedroom are laid out in the second floor level, the third floor is the central hub. At the third floor, a pristine white ladder in the double heighted living room leads to the mezzanine level study area which overlooks into the living space below and gives a glimpse of kitchen activity through a slight gap at the other end, where the roof slopes to accommodate a skylight at kitchen level. Another ladder takes you up to the door hidden in the wall to the rooms at the fourth level.
From the entrance level, when we climb to the upper floors and the mezzanine level, we enter the main living spaces of the family, i.e. the living room, kitchen, study, bedrooms and tatami rooms. Inducted with voids and double heighted spaces, the upper volumes evolve into a central communal zone and activity hub where the small family gathers.
The third floor is designed as an open area, stretching from the entire width of the floor plate to include the kitchen and living room in one volume. These two separate functional spaces are demarcated visually through different flooring materials and a level drop between the living space and kitchen-dining area.
This floor also has large glazed panels spanning the width and height of the room which wash the entire floor in bright sunlight, the effect of which is augmented by the white surfaces. In the words of the owner, “Pitch-dark nights, bright sunlit mornings; naturally, I feel the season and time in everyday life.”
Wooden boards carpet the living room area giving it a welcoming warm appeal which is contrasted with black tiles that floor the remaining space. A basic material palette of reinforced concrete and wood break the white geometric simplicity that etches the design.
Most of the spaces are painted in white, giving an illusion of capaciousness, while also maintaining the minimalistic appeal characterised with the designer’s work.
Accents of black and grey are woven into the ashen colour palette along with the wooden elements, infused by way of flooring and furniture, breaching the monotony of white and bringing in the warmth to balance the white surfaces.
Wood of various types is the dominant flooring material, and along with white it injects a serenity associated with Japanese architecture. The design laces in ‘tatami’ floored rooms which within the modern minimal box exemplifies the geometry. The ‘tatami’ rooms have all surfaces clad in wood, which contrast with the other spaces where white walls and dark ceiling frame the expanse, negating any ennui of similarity.
This small family residence maybe compact because of the physical and fiscal constraints, but yet the volumes are given an illusion of spaciousness through open plans, double heights and minimalism in interior décor; the same features also create a visual and physical connectivity that binds all areas into one volume.
Coo Planning believes in ‘the power of space and architecture’ and how it can charm your everyday living which has been interpreted in this dwelling unit successfully. The house defines itself as a contemporary Japanese residence with intense character inside giving the residents calm but exciting space to reside.
Text By K Parvathy Menon
Photographs by Yuko Tada, Coo Planning