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Near House by Mount Fuji Architects Studio, Tokyo, Japan

[COMMENDATION AR HOUSE 2011] Small but flamboyant response to a challenging urban context. Photography by Shigeo Ogawa

Among the growth patterns that define the streetscape of Tokyo, there is one in particular that produces a highly idiosyncratic plot type. The pattern develops as follows: if a family own a piece of land and want to make a bit of money, they divide their land into two parts and sell one. This habit of ‘divide and sell’ has created a complex patchwork of small plots of land.

The Near House is an inventive and optimistic response to this urban phenomenon. Viewed from above, the site resembles a pole and flag with a long thin alley connecting the main tract of land at the rear with the street. To confront this unpromising site condition, the architects divided the house into two buildings separated by a small courtyard.

The smaller of the two acts as a type of gatehouse to the main private home. While its street frontage has no openings, the inward-looking facade is glazed. This relationship is also mirrored by the main house. Nestling within these two exposed interiors, the courtyard acts like a corridor between two wings of a small but flamboyant dwelling.

Despite the apparent indulgence of introducing a gatehouse and courtyard into what is already a cramped site, the architects have succeeded in creating a generous and inviting private home. The jury applauded what they saw as an imaginative response to an especially challenging urban context.

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