AR House Finalist: Mount Fuji Architects Studio endows an unremarkable Tokyo suburb with a modern take on log houses
Mount Fuji Architects Studio is experienced in capitalising on space constraints by slotting buildings into challenging urban contexts. For example, in the Near House - like Log H also in Tokyo - (commended in AR House, see AR July 2011), two structures were squeezed between existing buildings and linked by a tiny courtyard, the smaller of the two acting as a gatehouse to the main home.
Log H, too, builds upwards rather than outwards. It is rooted in a featureless residential district on the outskirts of Tokyo and is a high-tech take on the log house, replacing timber with H-section steel which is usually reserved for large-scale buildings.
We all know the log house: from the broad upturned roofs of the Japanese picture-book version, to the log cabin of North American memory. In the log house the structure is all - layer upon layer of rounded timber. It is a building of essentials.
Log H is a fairly small house, and as such benefits from the clarity of a single focus: that of revealing the structure. Yet the stark and bold quality of the exterior belies the concealed charm of the interior. With only one room per storey, and wooden floors and a burnt orange spiral staircase uniting the levels, it is a warm and dappled home.
The H-steel plates have a large section and a hulking presence. Industrial mathematical regularity is softened by curved internal corners, and the giant scale of the building blocks offers a striking contrast to the intimate space within.
Architect Masahiro Harada’s fascination with exposing and celebrating the bones of building is clear. ‘My interest lies in shinkabe (a plastered wall with exposed timber pillars) rather than ookabe (walls where the pillars are plastered over). Ookabe accentuates spatiality by reducing itself as a presence that only shows the surface of a space. Shinkabe not only points to the space as a “surface” but also adds the “placeness” that well-constructed material things radiate to the living environment, by exposing architectural framework on its surface.’
‘Log H is a fairly small house, and as such benefits from the clarity of a single focus: that of revealing the structure.’
The step beyond shinkabe, according to Harada, is the ‘log house’, which generates an even stronger sense of physicality and ‘placeness’. While logs are of the wilderness, it is fitting that an updated city version should be made of steel. Among a wealth of Japanese entries to AR House, it was the strength and realisation of this premise which stood out for the judges.
In referencing traditional Japanese building approaches, the house creates a grounded, solid dwelling which brings powerful physicality to its suburban setting. As Harada adds: ‘It is a seed of “placeness” fitting to the new urban area, which is intellectual yet gentle and strong, different from the rugged, rustic one of a regular log house made of round timbers.’
Architect: Mount Fuji Architects Studio
Project team: Masahiro Harada, Mao Harada, Yusuke Kakinoki
Photographs: Koji Fujii / Nacasa & Partners
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