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House of Yagi, Japan by Suppose Design Office

Highly Commended: An austere monolithic block on a canal in Hiroshima conceals a mutable character easily adaptable to disparate, changing demands within

Looming over a canal, this house in Hiroshima might at first be thought to be some kind of redundant industrial structure; an old electricity substation or water tower, perhaps. Bare concrete walls, pocked by the marks of jointing and pours, are perforated by random openings. One wall flexes inwards in a faceted approximation of a curve. Stark and uncompromising, it seems almost an affront to its milieu of well-mannered suburban dwellings with their traditional tiled roofs and overhanging eaves.

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Overlooking a canal in a scrubby suburban setting, the house appears as some kind of industrial monolith

However, this is ostensibly a family house for a couple with children, designed to be an adaptable armature, evolving over time to respond to patterns of use and changing demands. The ground floor is a huge double-height volume with an earth floor and lone sapling. Part garden, part courtyard, part workshop and part garage, it is partly exposed to the elements as the openings here are unglazed.
The idea is that different sorts of structures can be incorporated into this space over time as needs dictate − for instance a children’s room or tea house.

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Open to the elements, the cavernous ground floor is a flexible living space that can be adapted to the family’s needs as time goes on

A narrow flight of stairs leads to the upper floor, which contains living, dining and sleeping spaces. A sliding glass screen separates the concrete stairwell from the kitchen. Within this lofty eyrie, views are framed and defined by the openings (which here are glazed), but the spirit is still essentially functional and austere − plain concrete walls, timber floor and simple pieces of furniture. A bathroom and store are enclosed by partitions made from plywood panels.

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Kitchen and dining space on the upper floor

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A sliding glass screen separates the stairwell from the kitchen

Like many similarly pioneering and propositional Japanese houses, to live here requires a certain adaptability on the part of occupants, but nonetheless the jury admired the project’s experimental ambition in the way it envisaged the house as mutable physical and social entity, and how this was translated into a highly compelling piece of architecture.

Fact File

Architect: Suppose Design Office

Photographs: Toshiyuki Yano

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