Face House humanised a dreary street in downtown Kyoto
First published in AR December 1975, this piece was republished online in June 2016
In Kazumasa Yamashita’s Face House at Kyoto, a window is a window and not just part of a glazed wall. The zoomorphic attributes of the front facade (eyes, nose and mouth full of teeth) do not belong to that line of bizarre architectural conceits which include Ribart’s ‘Elephant Triomphal’ and the witty Burrell Competition entry in the shape of a cow. Rather do they point the paradox, evident when the front and side facades are seen together, of a joke applied to the very unjokey box-like form of the whole.
Yamashita’s ‘I tried to find a solution by employing a simple and economic box structure [reinforced concrete], adding small but effective and functional accessories to the facade’ sums it all up, though one is hard put to find anything functional in the ‘nose’, whose only ‘function’ is to let a Corbusian shaft of light into one of the children’s rooms. The main entrance, reached by an outside staircase, is at first-floor level, which is given over to bedrooms, bathrooms and a tatami room. Master bedroom (curiously without bathroom), living room and kitchen are on the top floor. The ground floor, consists of two self-contained studios (the client is a graphic designer), with direct access from the street through the ‘grinning mouth’.