Architects: Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Location: Meguro, Tokyo, Japan
Date of Completion: 2007
Parcel areas: 770.22sqm
Constructed area: 424.25sqm
Exterior Wall Finish: Japanese Cypress Lining Board
Photographs: Courtesy of Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Behavior of Trees
People that use buildings live at a location that is physically close to nature. This can serve as a springboard for transcending the dichotomy of manmade things and nature, and help nurture a rich relationship between people and nature. Therefore, as architects, we observe trees with an unprecedented level of detail. Our designs are tailored to the unique behavior of trees, and to how the branches, leaves and roots grow. This approach is similar to how landscape gardeners perform their work. There are many architects that assume the site is vacant, and generally perform design work in a design studio far from the site. However, we carefully and closely observe the environmental conditions of the site, and do everything we can to formulate a design that responds to and complements the site.
With a Localized Response to Trees
This is a housing complex situated in a prime location in Tokyo. The rear of the site has a grove of trees 40 meters wide that are growing on a slope. We decided to formulate a design that provided maximum volume while cutting as few of these trees as possible. We first investigated the location of the roots with the help of an arborist, and placed the structural walls at a location as close as possible to the trees where the thick roots would not have to be cut. We snaked the underground beams to avoid coming into contact with large roots. Next, we measured all branches measuring 15cm or more in diameter with a unique methodology that we developed, and created a three dimensional computer image from this data. We then simulated the growth of the trees and the swaying of the branches during typhoons to determine the spaces where there would be no branches, and located rooms in these spaces. This did result in rooms that have irregular external shapes, but it was a result of accepting the natural environment as it is. Creating a building that responds in a localized manner to the trees rather than cutting down or trimming the trees is similar to how birds build their nests. This should bring about a new awareness and criticism of architecture that commits the original sin of destroying the environment.
Resonance of Behaviors
The inside of the building consists of large spaces such as one-room combined living / dining areas and kitchens with reinforced concrete walls, and small spaces such as bathrooms and studies built with a steel frame structure that extend into the trees. All of the rooms are located close to the trees, enabling the green foliage that is reflected and amplified by basins and mirrors to be seen from virtually all locations inside the building. Desks, bookshelves, bathtubs and washbasins are provided near the windows to create space where the people get the feeling that they are living together with the trees. This gives people the opportunity to look at squirrels in the trees and the leaves, smell the fragrance of flowers and hear the warbling of small birds. When people live in interior space that is created in response to the behavior of the trees and other elements of nature, the behavior of people tends to evolve. The respective actions and activities resonate with one another, people gradually integrate nature into themselves, and it becomes part of them. It think that a love for nature is created as a result this interaction being repeated.