Ideareve-Ikegami: a reinforced concrete mass in suburban Japan
by Dhwani ShanghviOct 27, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Amarjeet Singh TomarPublished on : Apr 19, 2023
Tucked into the hill, Dokubo and El Amigo are the new additions to an already existing house—located on an island in the Seto Inland Sea—to accommodate a variety of people who frequently visit, including the owner’s family and friends. The hillside, shaped like a slope rising gently counterclockwise, accommodates the annexes. The new building blocks are separated from the existing one in order to avoid obstructing views of the Setouchi landscape. The roof of the new buildings aligns with the floor level of the main house’s dining room to not hinder the expansive views towards the sea.
The Tokyo-based architectural firm Schemata Architects, founded in 1998, is known for its minimalist, functional, and innovative approach towards design that often incorporates Japanese craftsmanship. With a focus on sustainability and longevity, one of the key objectives of the Japanese architecture firm is to create spaces that are adaptable and flexible. Schemata Architects believes that architecture should be able to evolve and respond to changing needs and uses over time. Their designs often integrate elements such as movable walls, sliding screens, and other features that can be easily reconfigured.
Jo Nagasaka, the name synonymous to the Tokyo-based practice, was commissioned by the owner to create a guesthouse for children that became Dokubo and an independent lounge and bar space for adults that became El Amigo.
The guesthouse ‘Dokubo’, translating to ‘solitary quarters’, is inspired from the image of shukubo (accommodations operated by temples and shrines) as a place for children to disconnect from the world and return to solitude. It sits in front of the main house’s dining room and its rooftop platform extends the existing house’s foreground. The guesthouse is accessed via a spiral staircase that appears to be going below the ground.
Descending down the staircase takes one to the hallway wrapped within exposed concrete retaining walls built into the slope. The hallway provides access to the five bedroom units, a shower and a toilet. The bedroom units are located within a light wood and steel structure, opening towards the sea views via large window openings. The intimate space within each unit opening up to the sea forms a contemplative experience. The windows can be operated with the touch of a button and swings up with a small steel wire pulley system mounted on the overhanging steel roof.
Further down the slope, ‘El Amigo’, the lounge and bar space is designed like a hole in the ground forming a bunker-like appearance. One enters the relaxed setting through a large gull-wing doorway. An island countertop sits at the centre of the bar design equipped with a sink and storage underneath. The roof and the countertop is composed of FRP (fibre reinforced plastic). It filters the natural light during the daytime, mimicking light passing through a shoji screen. Large openings afford panoramic views towards the sea and create a perfect setting for holding tea ceremonies in the ryurei (standing) style.
There is certainly an element of craft present in the design. The texture of the interior walls is attained by utilising rice straw and layering it within the interior formwork. Once the concrete dried and coagulated, the rise husk was disposed of, which left the characteristic stone-like texture of the walls. It celebrates the experience of numerous craftsmen involved during the project.
The experimental approach of the Japanese architects is clearly reflected in its novel design process. Encounters and discoveries govern Schemata’s activities that entail thinking and making by hand. Crafted with immaculate details that required a few iterations, both the buildings are minimal and highly functional. While responding to the topography and the need of the user, the design is able to create the desired experience in both the spaces, enhancing the interior-exterior connection at the same time.
Name: DOKUBO+ EL AMIGO
Location: Seto Inland sea
Architects: Jo Nagasaka / Schemata Architects
Project team: Tomomi Ishibashi
Usage: Residential expansion
Construction: TANK, TSUNEISHI FACILITIES&CRAFT CO.,LTD.
Collaboration: Hashigotaka Architects(Structural design)
Number of stories: 1 Floor
Total floor area
El Amigo: 17.42m2
Type of structure
Dokubou: steel frame
El Amigo: Reinforced concrete construction
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