10AM Lofts repurposes a warehouse as an event venue and penthouse of contrasts
by Jerry ElengicalAug 31, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Jincy IypePublished on : Mar 11, 2023
Ever wondered what alternative dimensions or purposes doors could assume, besides being features of access?
When Japanese architect Yutaro Ohta was tasked to renovate a 60-year-old private wooden home nestled deep in the mountains of the Gunma prefecture in Japan, one wouldn't guess he would settle on championing old features to create an oddly calming yet peculiar space—myriad old door frames adorn every possible vertical surface of the compact, 98 sqm K/door house, where Ohta chose to repurpose old door and window frames, instead of foregoing them completely, lending the house a new life and an excitingly fresh and simple look. At its heart, the refurbishment considers the reuse, or even, the ‘adaptive reuse’ of materials and fixtures gathered during demolition and writing a new, transformed, and inimitable story for them, lending them meaning and new purpose instead of thoughtlessly abandoning them.
"As the world generates alarming amounts of waste, polluting and sickening the planet, we in Japan consider how to contribute towards lessening this, effectively reducing the amount of garbage generated, especially when dilapidated buildings are destroyed. This project had a small budget, so in order to minimise the cost of demolition and industrial waste, we considered using the fittings of the house as finishing materials for the construction itself. Therefore, the existing fittings were partially dismantled and painted in a new colour, altering the meaning and purpose of what used to be doors, and upcycling them into rectangular pieces of décor and elements for the home’s new skin," explains Ohta whose studio is based in Tokyo.
Refurbished for a young couple who recently got married and moved here from the city, the two-story, wooden residential design is located deep in the mountains in Kusatsu-cho, in a densely populated residential area. The K in the dwelling's moniker stands for Kusatsu, while the rest of the name owes itself to the myriad doors and window frames that articulate the interior design of the dwelling, which was designed and conceived over four months.
This town is a known tourist destination, famous for its hot springs. Because the K/door house is located in a mountainous area, it seems like it is carved out of the mountain, according to the architect. Although it is in the suburbs, it is a densely populated residential area, which meant that the distance between the adjacent buildings is quite less, and it is surrounded by dense greenery.
The original house was divided into small rooms, following the conventional design of a Japanese dwelling, and was poorly lit even during the daytime. To maximise the entry of natural light into the K/door house, the fixtures were removed and the second floor was dismantled to create a comparatively substantial atrium space. The result was almost theatrically spiritual, with daylight pouring in “like high sidelights” from the existing windows through the stairwell.
These removed fittings were scanned in 3D using Lidar on the Japanese architect’s iPhone, which revealed that they varied greatly in sizes, types, and looks. A collage started forming in Ohta’s mind, imagining the spaces being decorated with these old fixtures themselves, returning home, freshly dressed, and newly appointed. “Because of the minimal construction cost, we tried to reuse the fittings in the new house to reduce the cost of industrial waste. Instead of simply reusing the fixtures, we stripped them of their finish and painted them a soft, pastel green. By randomly layering the fine scale of the fittings that have supported the life of this house before, we were able to create a contemporary atrium living space,” shares Ohta.
A new wall was added along the stairwell of the Japanese design. Holes were drilled into this fresh wall to match existing openings, and doors made from reused fixtures were placed here. The staircase along the stairwell also gained these reused fittings as a handrail. "As we began the design process, we considered how to incorporate natural light to change the atmosphere of this house and open it spatially. We thought that by reducing a portion of the building and creating a stairwell, we would be able to secure light while utilising the existing windows,” he explains. Truly an ingeniously simple and honest approach to renovation design.
Another subtly impressive feature of the K/door house is how inexpensive its renovation process was - the Japanese architect relays that the kitchen and wet areas were mostly left as is with next to no add-ons, to save on added equipment work. One of the major interventions included dismantling the upper floor to create a bright, open space perfumed with natural light, and this led to the creation of the stairwell as well. At the same time, the interior fixtures were removed and even the closet space was made into a front space. The floors and walls were rotten, therefore, new laminate veneer was applied and painted white to freshen up the interiors. The repurposed fittings were later placed as a handrail and louvres in the stairwell above the living room, seeming so admirably unconventional, artsy, and humble.
The primary materiality is composed of wooden fixtures and linden veneer, while the overall colour scheme is based on stark white, aiming for a low-cost, abstract interior with the warm timber details for relief. As for the fittings, a calming sage green paint was chosen to renew the originally dull and depressing green, freshening up and injecting calmness into the home.
“With the K/door house, we sought to explore and stay between decorative design and de-functionalism. As people are choosing to spend more time at home post the pandemic, I think it would be good if a new factor that cannot be measured by functionality could be included in the axis of the space, enlivening it, and giving value to something that would otherwise be discarded orthodoxly,” Ohta continues.
The random layering and placement, as well as the sizes of the doors and window frames are also evocative of tatami (畳), a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms that embody a certain proportion and standard sizes. There are certain rules regarding the number of tatami mats used as well as its arranged layout within a room. The reused fixtures decorating the vertical facets of the home seem to imbibe a similar proportional language and aesthetic and are also indicative of Japanese screen doors, where the proportions work both in plan and elevations, adding subtly to the visual volume of the space.
"Regardless of this project, we believe that an important part of renovation is inheritance as well as the maximum possibility of conversion of parts. In this case, we focused on the size of the fittings. Therefore, as an output, all the surface materials were stripped off and designed as a rectangular layer of colour and dimensional information. This object not only functions as a handrail or a louvre in a house, a box for living, but also as a device that makes living more enjoyable, within an unconventional interior design. I believe that objects are necessary for future spaces to transcend functionalism,” concludes Ohta.
Name: K/door house
Location: Kusatsu Town, Gunma prefecture, Japan
Area: 98 sqm
Year of completion: 2022
Lead Architect: Yutaro Ohta
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