Murakoshi House by S Design Farm is a compact, inward-looking sanctum in Tokyo

On a pentagonal corner plot in the Ōta Ward of Japan’s capital, this two-storey home maintains the privacy of its users while offering abundant natural light and insulation.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Aug 29, 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.

  • The home features an envelope with limited fenestrations clad in metal panels | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    The home features an envelope with limited fenestrations clad in metal panels Image: Koichi Torimura
  • Enclosed by roads on three of its sides, the residence has a minimal footprint on the ground level | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    Enclosed by roads on three of its sides, the residence has a minimal footprint on the ground level Image: Koichi Torimura

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.

  • The ground level has been left relatively open to allow for easy ventilation and flood control | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    The ground level has been left relatively open to allow for easy ventilation and flood control Image: Koichi Torimura
  • Within this space, the atmosphere is subdued and quiet, providing a refuge from the activity of the street | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    Within this space, the atmosphere is subdued and quiet, providing a refuge from the activity of the street Image: Koichi Torimura

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.

With a courtyard to one side, the lower floor can double as a landscaped public space when necessary | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
With a courtyard to one side, the lower floor can double as a landscaped public space when necessary Image: Koichi Torimura

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.

  • Conceptual Form Development | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    Conceptual Form Development Image: Courtesy of S Design Farm
  • A winding staircase leads to the upper floor which hosts most of the functional spaces under the program | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    A winding staircase leads to the upper floor which hosts most of the functional spaces under the program Image: Koichi Torimura

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.

  • The trapezoidal living area is centred on a console mounted on a wall with three openings leading to the kitchen, staircase, and restroom | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    The trapezoidal living area is centred on a console mounted on a wall with three openings leading to the kitchen, staircase, and restroom Image: Koichi Torimura
  • Wood panelled flooring and tiled finishes constitute much of the palette as part of the interior design scheme | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    Wood panelled flooring and tiled finishes constitute much of the palette as part of the interior design scheme Image: Koichi Torimura

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.

  • A large window opens onto the courtyard and void, flooding the living room with light | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    A large window opens onto the courtyard and void, flooding the living room with light Image: Koichi Torimura
  • The space’s unique shape visually expands it to appear larger | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    The space’s unique shape visually expands it to appear larger Image: Koichi Torimura
  • Narrow corridors are a mainstay throughout the plan due to the limited space on offer | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    Narrow corridors are a mainstay throughout the plan due to the limited space on offer Image: Koichi Torimura

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.

  • View of the bathroom | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    View of the bathroom Image: Koichi Torimura
  • The master bedroom occupies one corner of the plan, accessed via a door at the end of the living room | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    The master bedroom occupies one corner of the plan, accessed via a door at the end of the living room Image: Koichi Torimura

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.

  • First Floor Plan | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    First Floor Plan Image:Courtesy of S Design Farm
  • Second and Loft Floor Plans | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    Second and Loft Floor Plans Image: Courtesy of S Design Farm
  • Section | Murakoshi House | S Design Farm | STIRworld
    Section Image: Courtesy of S Design Farm

Project Details

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

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