Runner Up: This house addresses the issues posed by its cramped suburban site by means of a seamless continuum of space which culminates in a dramatic vantage point over the Hisoshima coastline
Hoisted aloft on a cluster of slender pilotis, the Toda House (AR April 2012) pops periscopically up over the heads of its neighbours in suburban Hiroshima to survey the coastal landscape and the flat horizon of the sea beyond. Its evident otherness might easily be dismissed as yet another unorthodox japanese house, but as the jury discovered on closer consideration, it offers a radical reconceptualisation of domestic life.
All quotidian activities − living, sleeping, eating, washing, working − are arrayed and staged in a continuous loop of space that winds gently upwards to culminate in a roof terrace with a commanding ship’s bridge panorama of its surroundings.The liberated terrain at ground level becomes a precious garden, implanted with both real trees and an artificial glade of slim metal columns.
The experience of working for Ryue Nishizawa had given Kimihiko Okada, architect of the Toda House, a heightened sense of possibilities. This experimental proclivity found a fertile reciprocity in Okada’s clients, a young couple with a daughter, who initially posited the audacious notion of a house that could float in mid air.
An entrance staircase brings you up from the garden to the first floor entrance hall, and from there the space gradually unspools upwards in a gentle, almost cinematic sweep. As you promenade upwards, you are teased and beguiled by constantly changing vistas, both out to the wider world, as well as more intimate cross views of the house itself.
Individual functions are denoted by subtle changes in level and different floor finishes − carpet for the bedrooms, bamboo for the kitchen and parquet for the living room. Okada claims that if you are constantly circulating, it inculcates feelings of spatial generosity and expansiveness compared with a more conventional square plan.
Clearly, to inhabit such an eccentric set of spaces on a day to day basis makes some demands of the occupants, but they appear perfectly content with the outcome. and ultimately the jury were also persuaded of the scheme’s thoughtfulness in reworking the idea of the suburban ‘house on a plot’ into an uplifting (both physically and metaphorically) meditation on the changing and fluid nature of contemporary domestic life.
Architect: Kimihiko Okada
Photographs: Toshiyuki Yano