It is every architect’s desire to experiment with the way we live, work and function, and break stereotypes and conventional methods with innovation. Many a time, a unique idea can help ease everyday processes and develop better living conditions for the users; it could be something that is absolutely trivial or simple, but may have never been thought before. And if the client is open to such experimentation, the architect is in for a lucky treat.
As is in this case, the client, a family of three, wanted to feel close to each other regardless of where they were in the house, and they required the entire house to be designed as one space without walls. They did not feel the need to have separated and private rooms because they felt it was lonely to withdraw into one's personal space. They also expressed their desire to limit storage space as they believed it was unnecessary - they did not want to tuck things away.
The architects hence got involved into trying to find a form that allows the whole house to feel like one room, something they called the ‘Echo Chamber’, while securing sufficient space for their belongings.Yo Shimada, the principal architect of the firm, explains, “We proposed a design to connect the flooring with a height difference of 700 mm, where the different levels can be used as tables and shelves. The floors build up as two spiral shapes, join at the living room, and then separate into two again before arriving at the rooftop deck.” By using this combination of two spirals, the architects were able to create multiple paths inside the house that allow different room compartments and dynamism in the circulation, equipping the space to be able to accommodate changes in the lifestyle of the client when needed and opening up ambiguous possibilities for the use of the house.
In the Miyamoto town in Osaka where the house is located, the current architecture fabric is made up predominantly of apartments and parking lots, and is soon expected to change into a residential neighborhood of tall buildings. Old wooden houses surrounding this site had already been sold to make way for new development. Given this situation, it is safe to assume that much of the open space around the house would be lost and the only assured ingress of good sunlight would perhaps be through the roof. In ‘light’ of this, the house becomes a rectangular box-shaped volume with a flat roof inserted with triangular terraces, and the windows placed uniformly cause least interference to the structure to allow the house to be able to accommodate future changes in the environment.
Due to the fact that the house is located in a fire prevention district, it is designed within a steel framework. A ceiling height of 6,900 mm is stipulated wherein 13 separate floors float to create levels within the house. The top seven different levels are suspended with 20 mm steel rods from the roof beam, while the bottom six floors are supported by 75 mm square steel pipes from the floor. Shimada says, “The spatial structure that is constructed by repeating a simple autonomous system is similar to an ‘echo chamber’, which amplifies the innermost lifestyle of the client and conveys a sensitivity that expands without limit.”
The design of the house derives an interesting connection to the concept of ‘stacking’ in urban housing. The idea has developed in areas of high density where multiple levels are created, mainly to accommodate more number of people but also to create a sense of community living. The chawls of Mumbai have small compartmentalised rooms, however, the alleys and passageways that string them together have become important nodes of socialising and community development, vertically as well as horizontally.
The design of this house becomes an intriguing experiment of a similar nature in the context of a private home, where each ‘stack’ acts as a bedroom, kitchen, living room and other ancillary spaces with ambiguous and non-definitive functions. The architects explored their horizons and were keenly interested in seeing the way the client would respond after moving into the space. Shimada exclaims, “The client was living in the area nearby and slowly moved into the house. Since they started officially living here, the things, the architecture and people have become one like an ensemble, and the rich scenery of their lifestyle is expanding as if they are moving inside a forest. From now on, we look forward to seeing how the things, the residents and architecture settle down in relation to each other through time.”
The project, becomes an expression of the client’s own personality to live in a particular type of setting, but also opens up opportunities for architects to comprehend how living conditions can develop and thrive by breaking down conventions.
Project Details:Official Name of the Project: House in Miyamoto
Location: Osaka, Japan
Architect: Tato Architects
Principal Architect: Yo Shimada
Design Team: Yo Shimada, Nobuhiko Sato, Koji Hoshiyasu
Structural Design: Takashi Manda
Structural Design Team: Takashi Manda, Taijiro Kato
Construction: Seiyu construction company
Site Area: 128.1 sqm
Building Area: 49.7 sqm
Total Floor Area: 94.4 sqm