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Armadillo by Yuji Tanabe Architects

AR House 2014 Honourable Mention: Yuji Tanabe’s context-driven form draws inspiration from the armadillo in its response to the Japanese climate

Armadillo – ‘little armoured one’ – is a fitting epithet for this project in Kamakura, Japan’s 12th-century political centre due to its defensive geography of mountains on three sides and the sea on the other. This annexe’s bizarre shape is a combination of site constraints and a desire for year-round exposure to sunlight.

Having filled their original house with a collection of musical instruments and furniture, the client’s request was for a small-scale annexe in which to perform and host parties, or provide guest sleeping space.


Floor and roof plan

Symmetrical both in plan and the distribution of its openings, the northern side sits almost parallel to the adjacent house, the diamond shape dictated by a nearby persimmon tree and a nearby retaining wall. The roof structure subverts this symmetry, sloping down towards the cliffs on two sides only, creating a deck and sheer walls on the remaining two.

Inside, traditional Japanese joinery – fabricated off-site – remains on display, a movable staircase giving access to either of the skylights. Around the base of the annexe, red gravel marks the structure’s outline finishing in a tail, marking its spot like the armadillo that, having assessed sunlight, wind and topography, settles down in its lair.


Architect: Yuji Tanabe

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