by Jerry ElengicalOct 01, 2022
Opening up to the verdant banks of the Isumi River in Japan's Chiba Prefecture, a new rental villa by Tokyo-based Suppose Design Office channels traditional architecture with a keen contemporary slant. What this yields is a riverside retreat offering an experience where guests are invited to acquaint themselves with nature, in a fashion where they can both confront the elements in all earnestness, or retreat into the shelter of the residence’s enclosure if overwhelmed. Built by local company Daichi Co. Ltd.—founded by Suppose Design Office CEO Makoto Tanijiri to specialise in hospitality design ventures in sites with rich natural environments—the project, titled Daichi Isumi, is unpretentious in its outward presentation, embracing its context both in its placement and internal ambience.
Surmounted by a gentle pitched roof that slopes down on all four of its sides, the building’s façade design is neither elaborate nor expressive by any stretch of imagination. At first glance, it may seem to be just another cottage among rows of private residences stretching out along the banks of the River Isumi. However, there is far more than meets the eye with this structure, especially on crossing its threshold to encounter the luxury design experience it currently offers to guests. In this vein, the residential architecture has been configured to gradually reveal its offerings from the outset, curating the journey through its program meticulously.
Japanese architect Makoto Tanijiri explains in a statement, "Even before the pandemic, I had started looking for land parcels along the river near the ocean. Whenever I could find the time, I enjoyed the taste of an idyllic life of camping and visiting snowy mountains, where there was no intrusion of architecture. The experience of being in a place where no infrastructure is readily available, is to me, heartily enriching every time I visit. I often think about how I can create something close to this natural experience through architecture in a wide-open space.”
With this in mind, he envisioned a rental system for the project that would provide opportunities for both investors and outsiders alike to enjoy the unique living environment that he wanted to craft. “If we created a business that connected the natural environment and architecture, we could do what we loved for a living, and even if the pandemic were to strike again, said business would still thrive under trying circumstances. With this in mind, we decided to create a business of designing and building villas,” relays Tanijiri. He continues, “The business model was to select an excellent plot of land surrounded by nature, build a villa upon it, and share it between four sets of owners. When the owners are not using the villa, it can be rented out to the public as a single residential building. We also oversaw the establishment and operation of a matching system that allows for simultaneous rentals.”
Beyond this, in keeping with Tanijiri’s aspiration for a home that would not only grant an unhindered experience of living in harmony with nature, but also with the comforts of contemporary architecture, the final residential design does not make use of air conditioning in any form. In its place, the Japanese designers have chosen to make use of the walls, doors, and other elements as measures for climate control. Passive contextual design was central to this philosophy, which is seen throughout the structure.
As Tanijiri explains, “We researched and installed our villas with the maximum insulation to withstand all kinds of climates. A river running in front of the house provides cooling. Before going to bed, guests can jump into the pool to cool down and sleep with natural air conditioning. On cold days, they can warm themselves with a wooden stove. Had we installed air conditioning, we would probably spend our time as if we were in a hotel without opening the windows.” He adds, “Eating, bathing, and sleeping with the windows open and feeling the wind in the environment removes the boundary between nature and architecture, creating a richer experience. It is a minimal, simplistic experience, much like in camping, but tempered with a sense of relief, protected by architecture with only the most basic functionality.”
Two of the building’s levels are above the ground, while a basement floor, embedded into the grassy terrain of the riverfront, contains a Finnish sauna, enclosed by a large glass wall, which creates an intimate viewpoint of the river. Equipped with both a traditional sauna stove, as well as a shower and cold water bath, this area extends into a wooden deck bordered by concrete retaining walls, where guests can stretch out and bask in the sunshine along the riverside.
Quite a large part of the project’s appeal is on the floor above, where a large open space combines living and dining areas as well as an infinity pool design in a fluid continuum. Again, this space has been left open to the elements and fosters vistas of the river, with only a set of shoji-style doors—a hallmark of traditional Japanese architecture—offering any sort of barrier from the outside world. Polished concrete flooring stretches from the interior spaces to the deck surrounding the pool, which lightly cantilevers over the deck below to shade the sauna. The dark brown materiality of the building’s walls, dressed in a stucco finish, against the green hues of the lawn below, echo the colours of the surrounding forest, forging an aesthetic continuity between the natural and artificial.
Refined wooden furniture enhances the silent, open, atmosphere inside the main living area, where the clarity in its spatial ordering can be perceived to be almost zen-like. A rustic wooden dining table, finished with a live edge and propped on concrete supports emerging from the floor is the sculptural centrepiece of this zone, placed neither inside nor outside the building’s footprint. The raw, unfinished beauty of this piece is contrasted by the furniture designs, whose more contemporary elegance accentuates the blend of distinct styles in the villa design. Behind it, a sunken kitchen area recedes below the line of sight, its counter top almost level with the living room lounge. Lines of wooden slats adorn the ceiling of the living area, making the space appear to stretch infinitely into the distance.
Minimalism, central to the project’s architectural expression, not only manifests in the visual language of the villa, but also in its spatial segregation. For instance, two of the program’s three bedrooms occupy one arm of the structure, next to the living room lounge. Stacked atop one another, with only an unembellished wooden staircase design connecting the main volume of the house to the upper level, there are virtually no structural partitions breaking the flow of space in either case, adding to the theme of the house being a single continuous space. Finally, the last bedroom has been placed in the structure’s opposing arm, is accessed by another wooden staircase that has been recessed behind a projecting wall segment.
Despite initially starting out as a passion project, Daichi Isumi is expected to be the first of many such rental villas to redefine weekend retreats and long term living that offer contemporary luxury while also embracing nature to the fullest, in a manner that says more with less. “We aim for a richness of experience rather than an exhaustion of possessions,” concludes Tanijiri.
- Concrete Architecture
- Courtyard Architecture Facade Design
- Furniture Design
- Hospitality Architecture
- Hospitality Design
- Interior Design
- Japanese Architect
- Japanese Architecture
- Landscape Architecture
- Landscape Design
- Organic Architecture
- Pool Design
- Residential Architecture
- Residential Design
- Villa Design
- Wood Architecture