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Open Architecture by Yoshiaki Oyabu Architects, Tokyo, Japan

Yoshiaki Oyabu makes use of leftover space between four buildings to provide an extension to the public realm. Photography by Akira Ito

The on-going problems of spatial congestion in Japanese cities are well rehearsed. Making use of the gaps between buildings, this project by Osaka-based architect Yoshiaki Oyabu offers a new solution to a perennial dilemma. In a residential part of Tokyo, Oyabu has constructed a lightweight, tiered walkway squeezed into the leftover space between four houses. Made from a steel frame and expanded metal mesh, which allows light to percolate through it, this narrow sliver of space is conceived as an extension of the public realm. As a safe and enticing place to play, it is eagerly colonised by local children, but doubtless could also support different sorts of adult gatherings and festivities.

Riffing on uniquely Japanese notions of layered scale and externality, Oyabu’s inspiration is the hiroen, a veranda-like structure often attached to traditional buildings that provides an extension of the internal space. This open-architecture project stacks it up and subverts it in response to a more pressurised modern context, but nonetheless, the principle of creating an ‘edge’ or fragment space that can be appropriated for different activities remains the same.

And clearly, Oyabu’s notion of the modern hiroen could be applied to other similar situations. The jury particularly liked the scheme’s decisive inventiveness, its relationship with tradition and the deft way in which it conjured up something from nothing.

Architect Yoshiaki Oyabu, Osaka, Japan

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