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Photo © Isamu Murai
Photo © Isamu Murai
Photo © Isamu Murai
Photo © Isamu Murai
Photo © Isamu Murai
Takeru Shoji Architects

Courtyard House in Peach Garden

This is a private residence for a family of three built on a very particular landscape in the suburban Niigata, Japan.  It is on a corner of peach garden in between a historical hinterland of farm villages along the Nakanokuchi River and a heavy traffic highway passing through the whole Niigata prefecture in front. The context forms strong, but in a way less respectful, juxtapositions with arrogant billboards and stores along the highway and delicate environment of the farm village, that is composed of Japanese vernacular warehouses called "Kura" and houses surrounded with greenery of the hedge. Or more sensitive juxtapositions with slow life together with seasonal flowers and fruits of the peach tree and high-speed cars and its sound on the highway. All these environmental aspects, that are often appreciated to take a distance from each other, are incoherently situated in the site.

Yobitsugi as a design method

We have been critically confronted an issue of the suburban landscape today by accepting the incoherency, carefully observing these aspects and precisely reacting to it, consequently design process was naturally focused on editing the spatial configuration of all part of life in relation to the fragmented environment. This design approach became extremely similar to what we call "Yobitsugi" in Japanese tradition, which is reconstitution of tea bowel from fragments of broken pottery and expresses the beauty of lively life.

Courtyard as an apparatus for unification

The courtyard typology particularly here works as an apparatus unifying the fragmented environment. On the ground floor, three main volumes independently accommodating tearoom, walk-in closet and individual room create a courtyard with appropriate distance and relation to the outside. Entrance, passage to the tea room, master bedroom and study space are planned in between main three volumes and covered with a large volume put on the first floor. It is quite ambiguous that these intermediate spaces are conceived as whether inner or outer environment, nevertheless, it actually makes their life in comfort possible in the region of heavy snowfall.

The courtyard typology and the ambiguity of intermediate spaces obtain life in the peach garden a seamless connection to the highway and to the peach garden, but at the same time certain separation from undesirable environment of the roadside. The higher level contains LDK and bathroom under the butterfly roof with various heights from 1700mm to 3600mm. Accompanied with L-shaped one room plan, a series of different spatial characteristics are emerged. The precisely framed views from large windows towards south and north make us feel even more continuous, unified and inseparable landscape from high-speed cars, arrogant billboards and peach garden to the blue sky than it actually is.

Yakisugi as a materiality for communication

The materiality of exterior wall is particularly important here because it has a significant communal sense coincided with interaction between a local community and the house. The facade is covered with carbonized Japanese cedar boards called "Yakisugi", which used to be widely employed for the exterior material in Japan especially because of its high quality fireproof and preservation. Yakisugi wall is not so random as we might feel at first glance. Yakisugi boards are regularly and systematically arranged with four types in widths of 80mm, 105mm, 150mm and 210mm, and fixed with battens which also have three types in thickness of 12mm, 24mm and 36mm. Uneven texture of Yakisugi wall creates ever changing shadow gaps in the day time, and beautiful patterns and striking contrasts between white snow and black Yakisugi in winter. Today schoolchildren are finding pleasure in the difference of Yakisugi wall and counting the number of battens during commuting to elementary school nearby. House in Peach Garden is aimed at being a possible form of communication, activity and eventually life through the dialogue with the environment. Liveliness in the mutation and rediscovery of life would be emerged from reconstituting incoherent local environment as a spatial ensemble, and returning it to the environment just like "Yobitsugi."

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