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Forest House in the city, Japan by Studio Velocity

AR House 2013 Highly Commended: A rhomboidal form allows trees to thrive creating pockets of lush forest in suburbia

The template for the Japanese suburban house is imaginatively and whimsically reworked in this project by Studio Velocity in Toyokawa. The problems are familiar − a small site, hemmed in by neighbours, with little physical and architectural room to manoeuvre.

The response is a glacially white house set in a lush pocket of greenery, its gently curving walls inscribing a distinctive and unorthodox rhomboid-shaped footprint.

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Thrusting out into the street, the rhomboidal form keeps neighbours at a distance and creates pockets of greenery, so the house appears to be embedded in lush suburban forest

‘Plants make decisions about where to unfurl their leaves and extend their branches according to the presence and position of plants and other objects in their environment’, says Studio Velocity partner Miho Iwatsuki. ‘We were interested in designing architecture that exhibits a similar quality’.

The architects investigated the site and its surroundings, allowing these to shape and inform their project. The site is abutted on three sides by houses that all overlook it. Various plan configurations were considered (square, rectangle, circle) but all had drawbacks.

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The house opens up into the surrounding garden. A prow-like balcony provides a vantage point

However, the curved rhombus created distance between the house and its neighbours, provided the right amount of floor area, increased the length of the perimeter wall and made efficient use of the site.

Within the curved pockets of space between house and site edge are vivid bursts of greenery, so that viewed from the street and neighbouring buildings, the house and its outdoor space − both derived from their relationships with the site − resemble a forest, suggesting a new architectural ideal.

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The ground floor contains a small hairdressing salon with living quarters above

Various functions slip into the unconventional plan form with apparent ease. A small hairdressing salon occupies the ground floor, with domestic activities above. A compact spiral staircase unites the two floors.

Jury members debated at length about this project − some thought it too capricious and the kind of architecture that could only be achieved in Japan − but ultimately they agreed that its propositional qualities and highly considered response to context made it worthy of commendation.

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Forest House in the city, Japan

Architect: Studio Velocity
Photographs: Kentaro Kurihara

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