Tiny homes are exotic to many of us, but they are extraordinarily functional as a reprieve from the busy neighbourhoods of Tokyo.
As I discuss in my book, “The Hyperlocalization of Architecture,” the secret to these Japanese tiny houses is not only the imaginative designs, influenced by centuries-old traditions, but how they are connected to walkable neighbourhoods.
By embracing the public realm as an extended living space, with local restaurants, parks, public transportation, and other amenities, the need for private space is reduced.
Since privacy has not historically been a design priority in Japan, architects have freedom to open up small spaces, designing interiors that are visually, functionally, and psychologically larger than they seem.
The future of civilisation is well-designed cities, and the future of cities is well-designed small living spaces.
Cell Brick is located on a plot of land measuring 108 square feet and is no wider than the adjoining crosswalk. Steel boxes were bolted together in small sections off site and stacked like Tetris bricks to create an intricate and highly functional interior.
Creating capacity for storage is one of the most daunting challenges in a small home. By inverting the problem and making the structure the shelving, the design merges two separate design tasks.
House Tokyo masters light by letting it slip in from above, past the glazed deck and bath, through the suspended stair and glass floor, and onto the sunken living space. The interior is only 256 square feet in a footprint that completely fills the tiny corner lot.
The robust white treatment, tilted walls, and covered windows make the volume hard to read in both scale and purpose. Taking advantage of the corner lot, the house acts like a backdrop to the constant movement of people on the street.
A residence this small (look behind the shrubbery) is no longer a house but too large to be considered furniture. PACO House is small enough to be carried to a location -- urban, industrial, natural -- and support one person's need as a full-service shelter.
The system is evocative of traditional Japanese rooms, which could transform through the day from a sleeping space to a kitchen to a living space. The shower and toilet are one. A table pops out of the floor. A sleeping space is tucked below or in a hammock. Weather permitting, the roof hydraulically opens.
The practice of using rice paper glued to a delicate wooden lattice to transform space is still common throughout the world. This manipulation of softening light is the core principle behind a gently renovated ground-level work and living space in an unassuming west Tokyo building.
Delicate cloth screens line the sides, running on tracks inspired by hitofudegaki ( single stroke) calligraphy. Highlighted by light embedded in the floor, they separate the space into three zones and compensate for the lack of natural light.
Designed for a young family on a very limited budget, Small House inverts the typical approach of developing a small urban Tokyo lot. The counter-intuitive design uses less than half of the 111-square-foot lot, but the home is a full story taller than the neighbours.
Rather than heating or cooling the entire space, the family has opted to move the sleeping area according to the season. In the summer, the family sleeps in the lowest floor, which is half embedded in the ground. In winter, the family sleeps in the room directly above the kitchen for warmth.
Located a half hour south of Yokohama, facing Tokyo Bay, the austere concrete boxy form of T-House is set firmly, yet gently, into the hillside. From the street the structure plays with the elements of water and air as a gesture to the bay seen though the split canopy.
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