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House with Gardens by Tetsuo Kondo Architects, Yokohama, Japan

AR House 2011 Runner Up: large cuts in the facade bring light into pocket gardens scattered around this imaginative vision of domestic life. Photography by Ken’ichi Suzuki

Situated in a quiet, residential part of Yokohama, Japan, this family house was designed for a couple and their two children.

Though it has a predominantly urban context, with the usual lack of space, the rear of the site is adjoined by a forest, giving the neighbourhood a pastoral air. This sense of the bucolic is echoed in a series of micro gardens around the house. Introducing pockets of light and greenery into a dense and compactly planned volume, the gardens are small fragments of nature that imitate and connect with the wider surroundings.

Like its neighbours, the house is only two storeys high, but contains five different half levels, threaded together by two sets of staircases. Bedrooms for adults and children are placed on the lower levels, with the main living space exalted at the top of the house, sheltered under its sloping roof and connecting with a garden. Wrapped in a skin of white cladding panels, the house has the precise and artificial air of an origami model. Large cuts and slots in the wall planes temper this imperviousness, bringing light into the interior.

It was this choreographing of spatial richness and complexity, the skilful and sensual conjoining of inside and outside that attracted the jury’s attention. The architecture does not lapse into cuteness or coyness, but is an imaginative vision of domestic life that transforms the ordinary into something altogether extraordinary.

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