Remarkable Japanese Timber Structures

In Japan, wood has been the primary construction material ever since people started living in the country. Some buildings – such as sukiya-style residences – are composed of carefully-shaped members and intricate latticework, while others – such as minka (farmhouses) – us rustic timbers in their natural form. Recently, Japanese architects have been pushing the boundary of the size, as well as the design of timber structures by combining innovative new methods with the country’s ancient carpentry techniques.

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10 Extraordinary Japanese Houses

In the articles exploring unconventional Japanese houses, we look at ten widely published works of residential architecture that radically question the boundaries of conventional living. Although they can each be termed 'experimental' in some way, we can also gather that architects in Japan are occasionally granted license to design highly personal solutions to meet the needs and whims of their clients, whose lives are shaped by these imaginative creations for years to come. 

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New Approaches to Apartment Living in Japan

In Japan’s dense cities, living in drab, dark apartment buildings, with little amenity space is often the only affordable option. We’ve collected recent apartment projects by architects who creatively challenge conventional multi-unit housing – or mansions as they are ironically called in Japanese. Many of these designs address the quality of interior living, as well as the homes’ relationship with their surrounding neighbors.

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Visiting Can Lis – Jørn Utzon’s House on Majorca

Report by Yoshiharu Tsukamoto

Architect Yoshiharu Tsukamoto of Atelier Bow-Wow shared with us his experience visiting Jørn Utzon’s Can Lis, a house on Majorca, Spain, which we visited and photographed in 2012. Through the photographs as well as the drawings, sketches, essays, and details, a+u March 2013 Special issue documents the house – originally built in 1972 – after the restoration by Danish architect Lise Juel.

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28th Shinkenchiku Award Finalist 4: White Hut and Tilia Japonica

by Takahashi Maki + Shiokami Daisuke / Takahashi Maki and Associates

Japanese architects often have to come up with innovative ways to create a feeling of unique spatial quality within the small spaces they have to work with. Case in point: the fourth of our featured 2011 Shinkenchiku Award finalists. White Hut and Tilia Japonica by Takahashi Maki and Shiokami Daisuke is occupies mere 21 m2 (226 ft2) footprint.

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“Home for All” for Rikuzentakata

by Toyo Ito & Associates Architects + Office of Kumiko Inui + Sou Fujimoto Architects + Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office

“Architecture. Possible here?” was a theme Toyo Ito had in mind even before he was appointed as the commissioner for the Japan’s Golden Lion-winning Pavilion at the 2012 Venice Biennale’s Architecture Exhibition. After the devastating earthquake and tsunami disaster on March 11 in 2011, some Japanese architects realized how much their work depended on technology and economic resource, but took for granted the natural environment which could, in a matter of a few hours, wipe out the man-made environment. Mr. Ito worked with younger architects – Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto, and Akihisa Hirata – for about ten months, asking them and himself the above question. After making 200 models, holding weekly discussions at Mr. Ito’s office, and visits to the tsunami-hit city, the community house “Home for All” is currently under construction in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture.

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The Art of the Japanese Bath

Taking a bath after a day of work is an important ritual for relaxation in Japan. For many clients, the bathroom – usually in a separate wet room from the toilet – is one of the most important rooms in the house. Although they look traditional, most contain automated controls to fill and reheat the water in the bath. Some prefer to have an open view of the surrounding nature while others enjoy the calm of solitary spaces filled with indirect light. We bring you a selection of some of our favorite Japanese bathrooms. 

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