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House K by Sekkai-Sha Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Emerging Architecture Awards 2010: Runner-Up

Over recent years the AR has published many Japanese houses that challenge conventional modes of domestic expression. As a result, most have stood out as conspicuous expressions of modern life - typically with bold forms rendered in white. This house offered an alternative approach by blending into its context. Inside, however, it is no less ambitious in its provision of a new type of internalised living space.

In response to the client’s affection for the traditional morphology of Tokyo’s densely packed residential suburbs, Sekkei-sha was briefed to work with, not against, the existing language of pitched roofs and timber cladding. The brief also encouraged the architect to look beyond the formal identity of the pitched roof silhouette, to study the spaces between houses, in order to unpick how the relationship between such suburban forms create the sort of village-like interstitial spaces that the client wanted their new home to recreate. The result is a relatively conventional timber-clad envelope that contains something less typical; a curious stage set designed to resemble a typical Japanese suburban streetscape.

Comprising six house-shaped indoor rooms held within a bigger house-shaped envelope (one of which contains an external terrace), the nested spaces combine to create what the architect calls ‘an interweaved scenery’ that is both indoors and out. The plan of the house gives little away, but the section reveals the final configuration in which pitched roof forms sit beneath the larger volume to create a series of accessible internal rooftops.

While some of the award judges admitted they would not be comfortable in such an unusual home, in a rare moment of aesthetic focus, the jury seemed more interested in the witty resolution of the elevations that plays with pitched forms in relief, than the final balance of internal space.

Architect Sekkei-sha, Sapporo, Japan
Project architect Yoshichika Takagi
Structural engineer Daisuke Hasegawa & Partners
Photography Seiya Miyamoto and Yano Toshiyuki

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