by Jerry ElengicalAug 29, 2022
The Ideareve-Ikegami residence, designed by Japanese-architect Ryuichi Sasaki of the eponymous design practice, is located on the foot of the 17th century Honmonji Temple at Ikegami, a neighbourhood in the special district of Ōta-ku in suburban Tokyo, Japan. While the neighbourhood owes most of its historic significance to the conspicuous five-storey pagoda of the Honmonji temple, an accretion of smaller temples, cafes, stores and residential zones has converted it into a cultural hub for tourists, pilgrims, and locals alike.
The brief called for the design of a facility that not only created residential spaces but also accommodated community and public space where residents of the town could gather, express their creativity, and study music. The resultant programme thus includes a music hall, practice rooms, residential units and a penthouse unit.
The otherwise densely populated neighbourhood thins out as one approaches the hill that leads to the Honmonji Temple - north-east of the site, and the Nomi river to its south. To its immediate north, a cemetery bounds the site, while a large cluster of residences constitutes the south-east edge and smaller temples and cafes sit to the West. Within this context, Sasaki says, "The challenge for us was to design an experiential complex in its shadow that would embrace the spiritual and cultural essence of the community, while also respecting the types of strictly-enforced building codes that typically protect such heritage areas."
On a trapezoidal plot, the reinforced cement concrete structure is a sunken mass, sitting slightly below the level of the sloping street that leads to it. The private - residential, and the community spaces - dedicated to music, are segregated - with the former on the north-east and the latter occupying the south-west corner of the site.
A short gabion encloses a garden adjacent to the entrance, while an exterior vestibule - a four-metre wide alley - is bound by angular brass-coloured steel partitions on the east and the north. Besides this metal wall on two sides, the site is unrestricted and opens directly to the street on two sides, one serving as an entrance to the shared vestibule between the music wing and the residential wind; the other leading directly to the residential block.
The music wing, which consists of a double height music hall and 80-seat auditorium, a performance room, and rehearsal rooms, is accessed through the vestibule that leads to a foyer space from the street to the south.
On the interior of the music hall, large walls with acoustic reflectors collectively form an abstract diagonal shape that is interspersed with multiple openings and entrance ways that form connections between the exterior landscape and the interior. The glazed openings also aid in softening the solid mass of the concrete structure.
While the residential and the music block share a common entrance way, they are separated by a linear staircase that alludes to the stairs of the hill that lead up to the historic temple. This centrally located staircase that begins in the open vestibule, is consequently enclosed between two concrete walls with a skylight that lights the space.
The staircase culminates at a corridor, which is lined with rental residential units, each of which comprises a living room, a kitchen, sleeping quarters, and a bathroom. These private areas are soundproofed residential rental units that prevent infiltration of sound from the community centres.
The corridor, which faces the north, is bereft of any openings to evade views into the grim cemetery in front of it. The service areas of the house are thus located to the north while the liveable spaces are located to the south. Here, two uniform rows of balconies on the south elevation overlook a shared, semi-private courtyard that lies beyond the steel wall to the north of the vestibule.
To the west of the staircase, above the music room, three staggered volumes constitute the penthouse unit. Oriented completely north-south, the penthouse volume is rotated about the axis of the building and stands out against the masses in a fan-like form. One volume of the penthouse juts out into the vestibule, accentuating the change in axis.
Internally, the spaces allow a variety of spatial configurations, enabled by sliding walls that enlarge the living and dining areas. Additionally, the master bedroom can be reconfigured to multiple bedrooms to accommodate additional users. Designed across two storeys, the northern façade of the penthouse is glazed with full-height openings that provide vantage points to the terrace above the music hall.
The zoning regulations in Japan are a set of centralised guidelines that are essentially about the city, while housing is a bottom-up process. The housing model therefore is not made of hard physical rules about buildings and typologies, nor does it include soft rules about community and the role of people in the neighbourhood. However, a pyramidal stacked zonal model is enforced nationally, that results in neighbourhoods and buildings that are neither exclusively residential, nor commercial and focus instead on set-backs and the scale of buildings. It is therefore not unusual to see commercial, community and residential activities stacked over each other, which seemingly have no order - physical, social, architectural or otherwise. The Ideareve-Ikegami is one such mixed-use complex in a dense context, that is not just historical but also one that typifies the logical mess that characterises the built form in Japanese cities, one that exemplifies mixed use architecture that embodies Japanese architecture.
Name: Ideareve-Ikegami Residence
Builders: Ryuichi Sasaki Architecture
Architect: Ryuichi Sasaki