A recipe to live

JA+U: A recipe to live by Waseda University – Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada, Erika Mikami © Shinkenchiku-sha

The LIXIL* International University Architectural Competition – hosted by LIXIL JS Foundation – is a design competition for university research laboratories. Every year, universities from around the world are invited to participate to design sustainable architecture in Memu Meadows in Taiki-cho, Hokkaido, which is composed of experimental sustainable projects including MÊME by architect Kengo Kuma. This year’s competition – themed  “Retreat in Nature” – is under way with participants from 12 universities from 11 countries and will end in late March.

*LIXIL Corporation is Japan’s leading building materials and housing equipment manufacturing and sales company.

We would like to introduce “A recipe to live” by Waseda University students – Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada, and Erika Mikami – who were the winners of the competition in 2011. The house was constructed in 2012. Below is a text by the students also introduced in February 2013 issue of a+u.

JA+U: A recipe to live by Waseda University – Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada, Erika Mikami © Shinkenchiku-sha

Taiki-cho is a dairy farming town. Because it is situated in a coastal area of Hokkaido where salty sea winds blow, other agricultural products are difficult to grow there. Pasture grass stores up solar energy in the hot summer months, and dairy farms use the grass as forage for raising dairy cattle. Taiki’s seasonal culture is therefore centered on the pastures, and the town’s landscape and everyday life are founded on pasture grass as a raw material. Paradoxically, to employ the pasture grass in creating places for people to live, in Taiki, is equivalent to coexisting with the town’s seasonal culture, and this approach has provided a solution to problems sought since the 3.11 Earthquake.

JA+U: A recipe to live by Waseda University – Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada, Erika Mikami © Shinkenchiku-sha

This house is composed of shelves of two kinds—first, shelves fastened to the exterior walls for forage drying and, second, interior shelves with acrylic cases for fermenting the dried grass in winter, so as to produce heat. The year’s first grass crop is cut and placed to dry on the drying shelves while the house is receiving the powerful rays of summer sun. At this time, due to the moisture it releases, the drying grass functions as a “heat shield panel” and alleviates the harsh summer heat inside the house. The year’s second grass crop, harvested when the sun’s light has mellowed, is more pliant than the grass of the first crop. As the seasons change, the dried grass of the first crop is placed in the interior acrylic cases, and the pliable grass of the second crop takes its place on the exterior walls. Because of its pliancy, the second crop grass can be packed more densely, thereby enhancing the air-tightness of the walls. Thus, the grass performs as a buffer against the cold.

JA+U: A recipe to live by Waseda University – Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada, Erika Mikami © Waseda University – Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada, Erika Mikami

Plan courtesy of architect

The grass sealed in the acrylic cases is made to ferment in the cold winter months by adding “bokashi” (organic and slow release) fertilizer and moisture (with ammonium sulfate and slaked lime mixed in). The fermentation process differs, depending on the kind of grass (first crop, second crop, third crop …) and kind of “bokashi” fertilizer employed. The grass can be turned into a 40° heat source that can be sustained for about 36 hours or a 30° heat source that can be sustained for three to four weeks.

JA+U: A recipe to live by Waseda University – Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada, Erika Mikami © Shinkenchiku-sha

Currently, while learning about “bokashi” (organic and slow-release) fertilizer from the town’s dairy farms, we are working with them to produce an easy-to-use recipe, and undertaking experiments to see how the interior space changes under the effect of the grass in its various states. We have completed the house while carefully confirming the state of the timber materials structuring the house as well. This house attains functionality only with the cooperation of the town’s people in changing the grass of the walls several times a year. In this sense, it displays the same “mutual assistance” among farms that characterizes other agricultural products, and by bringing the town’s people into involvement, a new value not found in cities is obtained. The project is an endeavor to “wear” the seasonal culture of the town, and thereby create and extend the recipe for living that is handed down in the town with pride.

 

Find out about this year’s competition and participants from the official website and Facebook site.
There will be an open screening for the final round of jury on April 20th, 2013 (Sat) in Tokyo. Register to participate from the official website.