The magical and intriguing PokoPoko Clubhouse in the forests of Japan

Klein Dytham Architecture's enchanted forest sanctuary is a play on the idea of a fairy-tale cabin in the woods in Nasu Highlands in the northern corner of Tochigi region.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Mar 19, 2021

Fairy tales are associated with specific images, no matter what the context, the time or the geography. One tends to visualise a large forest with tiny cottages or huts with smoke rising out of the chimney, set against the backdrop of mountains or a scenic landscape that looks like it was borrowed from a painting. The cottages associated with this image are often simple, almost like a child’s drawing, with wooden walls and a shingled roof. The PokoPoko Clubhouse by Klein Dytham Architecture adheres to all these categories but looks nothing like the innocent conjuring of these enchanted cabins in the woods. The clubhouse is designed as a midway point between two sections of a hotel. The two complexes of the hotel consist of a small guest house from 1986 and a later addition, and is located in the Nasu Highlands lay in the northern corner of Tochigi region, Japan. The clubhouse has the advantage of being situated at the centre of a lush farming territory with Mount Nasu adding to the allure of the setting.

Situated at the centre of a lush farming territory with Mount Nasu in the background | PokoPoko Clubhouse by Klein Dytham Architecture | STIRworld
Situated at the centre of a lush farming territory with Mount Nasu in the background Image: Nacasa & Partners, Courtesy of Klein Dytham Architecture

Klein Dytham Architecture was established by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham in Tokyo in 1991, and bolstered with the addition of Yukinari Hisama in 1996, the studio has captured the essence and charm of a scene one is used to seeing only in animated studio productions. The approach to the cottage seems to grow out of a narrative as well. A newly fitted footbridge links the two complexes while a new more meandering path weaves through the lush forest. The organic approach path makes use of sinuous lines and allows for a slow reveal of the clubhouse, which sits in a small clearing in the woods. The scenery immediately around the PokoPoko Clubhouse maintains a combination of soft and hard landscaping that is in line with the geometric nature of the clubhouse itself.

A footbridge links the two complexes while slowly revealing the clubhouse | PokoPoko Clubhouse |Klein Dytham Architecture | STIRworld
A footbridge links the two complexes while slowly revealing the clubhouse Image: Nacasa & Partners, Courtesy of Klein Dytham Architecture

The cottage consists of three interconnected circular plans, furnished to facilitate family-oriented activities for the guests of the hotel. Each of these circular plans projects up as glass cylinders and are topped with a conical roof. As opposed to the traditional pitched roof, the clubhouse roof is distorted and asymmetrical. Adding more mystery to their overall forms, the tops of the roofs are chamfered at different angles to create an oculus. The clubhouse itself is not very large. Occupying a total of 300 sqm, it is the massing of the overall structure that has captivated the imagination of visitors. The undulating roofscape ‘sticks-up’ in different directions for the natural landscape around. This is also where the building gets its name, as ‘poko poko’ means to stick-out or stick-up in Japanese.

The cottage consists of three interconnected circular plans |Klein Dytham Architecture | STIRworld
The cottage consists of three interconnected circular plans Image: Courtesy of Klein Dytham Architecture

Each roof cone contains a separate function. The middle cone sits over the largest circle and is designed to allow for cooking activities. A variety of food related workshops keeps kids and parents entertained preparing their own jams and pickles, while a big wood-log oven offers an opportunity to make their own pizza with vegetables and herbs just picked from the nearby fields. This is also where the programming of the two outer circles can congregate. One of the outer cones houses an indoor playground, while the other cone on the opposite side consists of an open fireplace with a more relaxed setting.

roof structure of each of the cones is built using locally sourced pine | STIRworld
The roof structure of each of the cones is built using locally sourced pine Image: Courtesy of Klein Dytham Architecture

The roof structure of each of the cones is built using locally sourced pine. Two slender timber members with spaced off-cuts form the beams, and rise from a lower steel ring beam to a smaller ring to form the skylight. The beams are skinned with plywood sheets to form a tensioned skin. A layer of rigid insulation is held in place by a grid of timber battens, forming a ventilated cavity, which in turn gets skinned by another layer of plywood, which along with a breather paper layer forms the base for the shingle roof.

The scenery immediately around the clubhouse maintains a combination of soft and hard landscaping | STIRworld
The scenery immediately around the clubhouse maintains a combination of soft and hard landscaping Image: Brian Scott Peterson, Courtesy of Klein Dytham Architecture

In each of the cones, the oculus or skylight coordinates with the furniture layout. In the indoor playground a tall white net structure is connected from the floor all the way up towards the skylight, tempting the kids to climb, adding to the phantastic experience of the structure. On the opposite end the oculus is set off the fireplace, so as to allow the chimney to stick out of the roof. While in the central section, the oculus is right over the serving table.

An enchanted forest sanctuary |Klein Dytham Architecture | STIRworld
An enchanted forest sanctuary Image: Mark Dytham, Courtesy of Klein Dytham Architecture

Even though the three sections of the clubhouse seem to have their own structure, they are in fact connected. The divisions between the central circle and the two on the sides are separated by the use of mid-level bookshelves, allowing for a visual connection between the playground and the fireplace. The primary furniture used is Klein Dytham Architecture’s Dora Dora furniture. The seating system is designed as a flexible arrangement with the possibility of customisation, with colourful fabric choices and range of accessories to clip on. Conceptualised as "furniture that makes you feel at home in any space," it adds to the enchantment of this forest sanctuary.

Project Details

Name: PokoPoko Clubhouse
Location: Tochigi, Japan
Area: 300 sqm
Architect: Klein and Dytham Architects

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