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Daylight House by Takeshi Hosaka Architects, Yokohama, Japan

AR House 2011 Runner Up: the skylit punctured roof of Daylight House rises up amid a cramped and chaotic urban milieu. Photography by Nacasa & Partners and Koji Fuji

This family house in the centre of Yokohama was one of the more extreme articulations of modern domesticity considered by the jury. But in coming to terms with a cramped and unforgiving site, even by Japanese standards, architect Takeshi Hosaka has succeeded in creating a simple yet lyrical dwelling.

The site lies close to Yokohama’s main railway station and is hemmed in by a burly assortment of buildings, ranging from detached houses to 10-storey condominiums and offices. Amid this chaotic urban milieu, views are non-existent, so ‘light streaming down from the sky above felt precious’, according to Hosaka.

The house is essentially a fluid, double-height volume structured on a 1.5 x 1.6m grid. Bedrooms, bathrooms and a study area surround the perimeter of a unified living, dining and kitchen space. Folding partitions just over 2m high separate each of these secondary, smaller enclaves from the main volume, but throughout the house, there is a serene sense of loftiness and light.

Daylight from 29 clear glass skylights installed in the flat roof is filtered and diffused through curved acrylic ceiling vaults to cast a soft radiance through the spaces below. ‘There is so much light from the sky that is hard to believe that the house is set in a dark valley created by the surrounding buildings,’ says Hosaka.

The roof and ceiling structure also help to regulate the internal environment. Using the air space between the acrylic vaults and the roof, a forced air system ejects heated air in summer and traps it in winter, acting as a thermal buffer to maintain a stable internal temperature.

But it was the consummate handling of light that attracted the jury’s attention. From dawn to dusk, the quality of light changes throughout the day, connecting occupants with the passage of the sun and the changing of the seasons. Yet to the relief of some jury members, there are also openings scattered around the perimeter wall.

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