by Jincy IypeMar 11, 2023
Japanese architectural and design practice DDAA displays ease and tenacity in the renovation of an 86-year-old residence into the Maruhiro Office “Ouchi”, created for Maruhiro, a Hasami pottery brand based in Nagasaki, Japan. Giving off an unfinished yet refined air, the project merges the professional setting of a retail space with the lived-in, homeliness of its former skin, cementing its past into the present, and looking earnestly into the future. Maruhiro Office combines office design, showroom and retail design in its wooden framework, underscored by simplicity and functionality.
The adaptive reuse scheme takes up space behind 'Hiroppa', the brand’s complex that includes a park, kitchen, residential spaces for artists’ collaborations as well as a directly-managed store that is currently under planning at DDAA, in addition to a showroom and workplace functions. DDAA founder, Daisuke Motogi, shares that Hasami pottery is the region’s celebrated local industry and by adding the park and the store, the space becomes an earnest communal plaza for customers and locals alike.
The renovation began when the world was struggling to cope with the spread of COVID-19. The team was able to complete the complex in half of its originally proposed budget, despite the uncertainty of the time, owing it all to the original architecture’s scope of expansion. "The goal was to boldly change the impression of the existing one with as little modification as possible and also to create a space that is not fixed in function or concept," says the Japanese architect.
Japanese architecture, especially houses, are known to accommodate future flexibility and repeated expansion, and it holds true for this residential design as well where the former kitchen, warehouse, entrance, and other areas were extended. “It can be said that one of the characteristics of Japanese housing is that it does not peak at the time of completion but can gradually change its appearance according to the situation,” says Motogi.
The DDAA design team also shares that they proposed to make as few changes as possible to the existing wooden structure to transform the two-storey building. The floor where tatami mats were laid were removed and poured with concrete to develop a “magnificent stone plinth foundation”. While the floor was lowered, the ceiling height was increased to expand the space. Paper and glass were removed from yukimi-shoji screens, which are lattice frames with translucent paper on top, and glass on the lower part so that you could look out at the garden when sitting on the mats.
Furthermore, the desk legs were brought to the height of the original flooring by embedding them in concrete; the resultant seats are now at eye level with the garden outside. Modest armless chairs accompany glass top desk propped on concrete legs, making the sunlight-filled interior design seem cleaner, more efficient, and modest. Switches are fixed on protruding transparent boxes while switch dockets are left exposed on the concrete desk, becoming unconventional decorative details.
The tokonoma (a decoration space placed at the far end of a Japanese tatami room, opposite to the entrance, often decorated with scrolls and art pieces) sits soundlessly in the background. Dressing the almost bare, minimal insides is a rolling round mirrored door installed on the existing shoji frame, to become the entrance. Tatami mats replace wooden boards on the second floor to create a residential space for artists. "The wall below the nageshi (decorative material that connects columns horizontally) is covered with the same lauan plywood as the floor, and no additional work has been done above that,” Motogi explains.
“By slightly changing its relationship, the original meaning can be altered. We believe that this is an effective way to utilise existing stock, such as vacant houses. After completion, plans to use it not only as an office, but also as a tea shop adjacent to the park, a pop-up store, and a rental space have immediately surfaced,” shares DDAA.
Name: Maruhiro Office “Ouchi”
Location: Hasami town, Nagasaki, Japan
Area: 408.24 sqm
Year of completion: 2021
Typology: Office, Showroom, Residence, Retail store
Client: Maruhiro inc.
Design team: Daisuke Motogi, Kazuya Sumida
Furniture production: Studio arche