by Jerry ElengicalAug 19, 2022
Building in contemporary urban landscapes comes with a whole new set of challenges, including considerations such as privacy, spatial scarcity, noise and light pollution, safety, and the provision of natural lighting and ventilation posing obstacles at a level seldom seen before. Globally, dense metropolises such as Tokyo - Japan’s capital and most populous city, where space is limited and the demand is ever intensifying - are contexts where the success of an architectural intervention is partly determined by how well these parameters are addressed down to the most minute detail. A pentagonal corner plot in the city’s Ōta Ward provided Japanese architecture practice S Design Farm with a chance to formulate their own vision of how these problems could be effectively resolved, when enlisted for a residential design project for a couple that worked in the city.
Enclosed by roads on three of its sides, in an area prone to flooding from a nearby stream, the site imposed a number of constraints due to its location in an area full of pedestrian traffic. These conditions also presented a significant threat to the privacy of the home's users. However, the trajectory of the main roads along the plot’s edges allowed for good ventilation throughout its extent. In this urban milieu, the design team led by Japanese architects Shikauchi Takeshi and Hiroki Watanabe chose to follow the geometry of the site in their layout, developing a pentagonal plan that is offset from the plot’s perimeter to maximise the effective floor area.
Since the clients preferred to have limited openings along the home’s exterior, the architects at S Design Farm opted for a bare façade design of concrete supports beneath the main body wrapped in metal panels, and minor fenestrations placed only along one of the outward walls. The results here bear a lot of similarities to Tadao Ando’s Row House in Sumiyoshi, Osaka, which also features virtually no openings to disconnect users from the city outside while using an internal courtyard for light and ventilation. Although, the need for privacy in this case is compounded by the home being surrounded by roads on three sides rather than just one.
To compensate for this, most of the lower floor is left open for a dynamic parking area that can also double as a landscaped open public space when necessary. The environment here is subdued and secluded, revealing little of the home’s innards while granting users a safe haven from the activity of the surrounding streets. Besides a triangular enclosure with a courtyard to one side and a collection of service spaces including the entrance, restroom, and storage area placed in a line along the other bounding edge, the building’s footprint is very light to allow water to pass through in case of flooding and also permit unobstructed airflow. The residence’s architecture is also settled atop a high foundation for the former purpose.
A winding staircase at the centre of the ground level plan leads to the first floor, where the triangular vertex facing the stream is hollowed out to create a courtyard on the first floor for light and air to enter the structure. This void is the main interface for Murakoshi House's interior to commune with the world outside, as the primary source of natural light and ventilation. In this regard, the configuration here has been described as one of a “closed living room overlapping an open garage” by the architects. The unique trapezoidal shape of the living area engenders a sense of spatial expansion, where the room itself appears to be larger than it is. Large windows opening into the atrium flood the volume with light, giving an impression of increased depth.
Wood flooring and tile constitute the majority of the finishes under the interior design scheme here, which on a whole, is functional and understated in appearance. Partitions are scarce, with the television and console mounted on a wall punctured by three entryways leading to the kitchen, staircase, and bathroom. Three wood panelled surfaces have been placed at the lintel level in all the openings. Past them, the space contracts in each of these zones, with narrow corridors provided for circulation through the plan. The doorway to one corner, opposite the solitary window leads into the master bedroom. Above, the loft space on the uppermost level is accessed via a narrow stairway with strip lighting embedded into its wood-finished enclosing wall.
Under the measures adopted to reduce its carbon footprint, Murakoshi House’s envelope has been designed for high efficiency insulation to a degree where indoor heating is scarcely required even during winter. The home’s electrical systems have also been devised in a manner similar to that of a smart home where most can be controlled by voice commands or through smartphone applications, negating the need for any switches or physical control panels on the walls.
Through Murakoshi House’s completion, S Design Farm has addressed some of the most significant considerations in designing residential buildings in complex urban environments with an unassuming ease that conceals the real complexity of the program and the limited space available to contain it. In this vein, the firm has put forth a vision for urban housing in the future, which can inform further explorations and inquiry, to optimise the development of the built environment under mounting constraints in multiple dimensions.
Name: Murakoshi House
Location: Ota Ward, Tokyo, Japan
Land area: 73.92 sqm
Built area: 122.36 sqm
Year of Completion: 2021
Architect: S Design Farm
Design Team: Hiroki Watanabe and Takeshi Shikauchi
Structural Design and Planning: Tetsuya Tanaka
Performance Calculation: KIZUKI Takehiko Koizumi
Construction: Enaka Construction / Eiichi Ikeda (site supervisor), Kentaro Ito (estimator)
Model Making: Masayuki Saito, ain
- carbon footprint
- Concrete Architecture
- Contemporary Architecture
- Courtyard Architecture
- Facade Design
- Interior Design
- Japanese Architect
- Japanese Architecture
- Landscape Design
- natural light
- Residential Architecture
- Residential Building
- Residential Design
- Smart Homes
- Staircase Design
- urban landscape
- wood architecture