Commended: Shaped by the archteypal idea of the dwelling as nest, this family house combines intimacy and drama
The idea of the house as a nest is endearingly fundamental; the dwelling as archetypal shelter and retreat, nurturing new and successive generations. In designing this family house on a suburban site in Onomichi City in southern Japan, Keisuke Maeda of UID architects wanted to explore the notion of house as nest, a spatially intimate, layered and latticed structure partly embedded in the earth.
‘It is similar to creatures that generate their nest under elements covering the forest floor,’ explains Maeda. And the nest also embraces wider cosmic properties. ‘It is a principle that expands from a nest in a forest, to a forest, to the earth and ultimately to the universe,’ he adds.
The clients were a mother and her two daughters. The site is on the edge of a forest, with neighbours at some remove. Maeda sought to develop a single unified dwelling space that relates to its surroundings by rethinking elements such as walls and floors.
Specifically, a partially embedded lower ground floor becomes like an anthill or subterranean nest, while above ground, a floating timber box resembles branches and leaves covering the forest floor.
Entry is by means of the sunken lower floor, which contains bedrooms, storage and an internal courtyard garden planted with delicate Japanese maples that rise up through the house. Set slightly above ground, the main floor houses a living space, more bedrooms, a study and a sunken kitchen area. The changes in level serve to subtly define and demarcate different functions.
Apart from the earthbound concrete level, the upper box is made entirely from timber, with a structural frame of Douglas fir encased in plywood panels. large openings admit copious light and views. The jury admired both the concept and its execution, noting that the house displayed an unusual sensitivity in its handling of space, light and materials.
Architect: UID Architects
Photographs: Hiroshi Ueda