House in Wakabadai is a small residence with a building area of less than 66 sqm. The client is a young couple in their mid-thirties. Their main request was to have “a house that is attractive and cool.” When I asked them of some specific imageries, they would simply answer “its hard to put into words so we leave it up to you.”
As an architect and historian as well, I believe that: “one can explain something good with reason but cannot explain beauty with reason; one can create something good with reason but cannot create beauty with reason; and beauty can create reason but reason cannot create beauty.”
Certain things are just so attractive that verbal expression is suspended and left powerless. Whenever people encounter such things, the body automatically responds earlier than making logic for words. As a matter of fact, I myself have been captured by the curious power of such attraction, ever since my involvement in the design of ”villa man-bow” in 1997. In my quest for architecture as an existence that takes the teeth out of logic, I named the nature of this mysterious attraction “intensity of architecture.” And this house is one attempt in such practice.
Wakabadai is the last of the development areas in Tama New Town. It is situated on the periphery of a countryside in its way to urbanization. The site is located at the end of a blind alley, 4-meter-wide dogleg private road, connected to the main street. It is bordered by a river on its south side, which offers a pleasant view over the hills of rich greens on the other side. However, the plot has attracted no buyers and been abandoned for a long time for its reputation for the weak ground due to its proximity to the river and for its inconvenient location set far back from the main street. Adjacent on the west is a two-storied private house inhabited by an old couple; on the north a two-storied apartment building of 8 households; and on the east a small crop field.
The project started out with considering the movements of automobiles within the site. Two cars had to be parked under a roof by tucking the car from the font and switching back inside the site, as it was one absolute requirement presented by the client who loves cars. Most of the ground area of 116 sqm was occupied by the cars. The small remaining area became the core, housing the entrance, staircase, and storage. This is how the large pilotis of this small house came about.
The outer shape of the building was adjusted in terms of scale in relation to the surroundings, by tilting and trimming volumes and surfaces. Special concern was given to the house on west and the apartment building on north as they were immediate neighbors. The living room window on the southeastern corner of the house on west is open to a view over the hills on the opposite side of the river. In order to avoid interference with this view, walls that may get in the way were tilted inward. In dealing with the apartment on north, the ground floor was turned into pilotis to offer better visual clearance and ventilation. From the first floor and up, external walls were arranged so that the distance between the two buildings gradually increases upward in an attempt to ease oppressive feelings. The interior features variety in wall and ceiling surfaces mixed effects of light and shadow that the external views and internal surfaces would create.
The structure is a wooden construction mostly made of 2x4 members and laminated panels. Long piles are required because of the weak ground. The light construction of timbers as well as pliotis with the least number of spots touching the ground was favorable in decreasing the number and length of piles. As part of my research project at the university, I have been working on the development of new wooden structure methods with the structural designer Hirokazu Toki since 2003, and applying them into practical use. In this particular case the structure is an application of CSS, Container Structure System*. The house includes 3 structural elements that lift up the double-layered living section. The largest element in the Container Structure is the core accommodating the staircase, storage, washing place for the dog, and lavatory. The other two elements house utility pipes and wires, and are so to say，arms that become thin as bones toward the ground.
Inframable material were used for interior and exterior finishings in compliance to prevention codes. Exterior walls were covered with 5mm slit boards of rustproof steel sheet 1 mm thick, placed at a distance of 5mm from the base steel plates to create heat-insulatlng air space in between, in order to provide comfortable interior environment during summer seasons.
*Container Structure System: A patent pending new method developed by Satoshi Okada and Hirokazu Toki upon their design for Gallery in Kiyosato (see Casabella 734).
Text by Satoshi Okada