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Residential Care Unit, Japan by Sou Fujimoto Architects


AR_EA 2005 Highly commended: With just three formal variables, this sinuous new settlement works with site and brief

This project was a popular choice, with many intricate spatial qualities and bearing more than a passing resemblance to Sea Ranch - Charles Moore’s celebrated 1960s Californian cliff-top settlement, that has since become a model of ordered informality. Beyond this association, however, this contemporary interpretation stood out as an extremely accomplished work. Through an ingenious manipulation of modular plans and elevated forms, the architect has created a settlement with its own striking identity, embodying the landscape and place-making qualities of Sea Ranch, without merely copying it.

Floor plans

Floor plans

Adopting the contemporary interest in applying a single cladding material to both walls and roof, the buildings are simply articulated in black profiled cladding, producing an overtly contemporary composition that sits comfortably on a south-westerly slope overlooking the sea in Hokkaido in the northernmost mainland of Japan. Providing accommodation for up to twenty mental health patients, the campus consists of a sinuous cluster of buildings: 11 square units linked by 10 interstitial triangular spaces. Three roof types - flat, mono-pitch and ridge - and three storey heights further articulate each unit’s form, adding complexity to the building’s silhouette as it descends the subtle gradient of the site. The 5.4 x 5.4m units contain cellular accommodation - bedrooms, living rooms and offices - separated by triangular alcoves, entrances and circulation zones. The Jury remained less convinced about the building’s appropriateness as a dormitory for the mentally disabled; however, in response to this the architect’s description of the scheme as being ‘suitably ambiguous’ helped them settle on an equally ambiguous decision.

Long section

Long section

When seeking to create a comfortable home for twenty residents, the designers wanted to create a context that, in a controlled, secure and sensitively handled way, would mimic the diversity and sense of unpredictability of city life. The form generates a wide variety of spaces, of shapes and sizes, gaps, dead-ends, nooks and crannies, creating a series of in-between places where people may be naturally inclined to find refuge. If likened to a city, this arrangement seeks to create alleyways and tiny squares on every corner, instead of building spaces, corridors and communal areas that recall the anonymous and potentially intimidating effect of wide roads and large public squares.

Domestic dimensions and city-like diversity are therefore combined into a new series of internal spaces, from where views across the coastal conurbation of Hokkaido give the residents a controlled link to their wider context.

Residential Care Unit, Hokkaido, Japan

Architect: Sou Fujimoto Architects, Tokyo
Project team: Sou Fujimoto, Yumiko Nogiri, Koji Aoki
Photographs: Sou Fujimoto


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