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House H by Sou Fujimoto Architects, Tokyo, Japan

Fujimoto Architects create a sequence of clearly defined rooms within a singular continous living space. Photography by Iwan Baan

House H is situated in a typical residential district of Tokyo. Sou Fujimoto’s clients, however, are described as less typical, possessing ‘a sophisticated understanding of quality in space’. They set the architect a contradictory brief asking for a variety of clearly defined rooms that combine to produce a singular continuous space. Parents to a young daughter, they wanted space for ‘shared independence’ with ‘well connected and well separated rooms’. The outcome is this compact cluster of interiors that take on a stripped, Loosian quality, with plans divided into four quadrants. Yet they bear little of the intricacy of the Viennese architect’s Raumplan houses (AR January 2009). Instead, Fujimoto’s interiors derive complexity in section, through relationships of floor slabs and the composition of openings in both walls and floors.

Fujimoto applies a curious metaphor to this rectilinear concrete construction, likening it to a tree. The association is abstract, as he explains: ‘It is not tree shaped but is like a tree in terms of the relationship between branches.

‘Each room [or branch] defines its own space but shares a single three-dimensional atmosphere.’

Stairs create a dynamic route connecting rooms in a sequence that on Fujimoto’s terms allows the family to ‘climb the tree’. Tested using 1:20 scale models, architect and client worked together to understand connectivity, deciding the size of each aperture and room, and prioritising the dining room as the most ‘special, luxurious room’, reaching up to 4.3m.

From the ground (which includes parking space, library and guest bedroom) a split-level hall leads up to the first-floor kitchen. From here, four timber risers lead into the double-height dining room, which is connected to the living room by a three-step plinth. Another stepped plinth connects the living room to the master bedroom and the annexed daughter’s room - the most daring space, it has its own dead-end staircase sitting precariously above the kitchen.

From the master bedroom, a long timber staircase leaps back across the living room to a ‘private room’ and bathroom, which leads into two external rooms that occupy residual space within the house’s rectangular silhouette. From these sheltered roof-rooms, a final staircase leads to a rooftop viewing platform. Throughout, the dominance of Fujimoto’s quadrant plan is expressed, with either staircase, plinth or up-stand reinforcing the threshold between spaces, creating another controlled but liberated domestic setting

Architect Sou Fujimoto, Tokyo, Japan
Architect project team Sou Fujimoto, Hiroshi Kato
Structural engineer Jun Sato
General contractor Heisei Construction Co

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