LocationShimanto, Kouchi Prefecture, Japan
PhotographsKoji Fujii - Nacasa＆Partners
From the architect. The town of Shimanto, Kouchi Prefecture: On the north stands the Shikoku mountain range, to the south the Pacific Ocean, and through its center the leisurely flowing transparent waters of the Shimanto River. This area is a plateau and yet also a basin surrounded by mountains. Due to the crossing of the Shimanto River, fog often occurs, especially from summer to autumn, and the area experiences heavy annual rainfall.
Although the surrounding environment is especially beautiful, the building site presented us with several design challenges. Our first priority was safeguarding against the anticipated potential damage caused by heavy rainfall. Second, in the midst of an open rural landscape, the property stands facing an intersection of an interstate road which produces a great deal of daytime traffic. Reducing noise and obstructing the drivers’ line of vision into the house were significant factors to consider.
How much comfort could we offer residents living under such conditions while also protecting their environment of daily living? The project began with these considerations in mind. As a measure of protection from heavy rain, we designed the roof as simply as possible in order to facilitate runoff. We carefully developed our plans step-by-step to avoid problems with drainage both inside and outside the home. We resolved the problems of noise and privacy from the busy road by closing the north side facing traffic while opening up the south. We arranged rooms meticulously, at the same time being conscious of the exterior. Our aim was for functionality without being ordinary, while pursuing a design that engaged with the surrounding scenery.
In order to link the inside of the house with its wide open landscape, we adopted a high ceiling utilizing the pitch of the roof. Incorporating a skylight window allowed for air circulation, ventilation and added light. As the wind circulates the air, it enhances interior comfort. Bringing in natural light from a high position significantly changes the brightness of the rooms even under cloudy conditions. Openings along the south side of the living room and bedroom provide unobstructed views from the rooms to the outdoors.
On the first floor, sliding doors were installed creating a “soft line,” allowing flexibility to control interior temperatures or adapting to the needs of the family’s lifestyle. By slowly lowering your gaze from the high ceiling, one can see the expanse of the interior. Off to the south extends a quiet rural scene, visually connecting the inside with the outside, whose continuity produces a sense of liberation and tranquility. Our concept for the exterior was connection, designing the house to sense a continuity with the earth as if a small hill existed in the quiet countryside.
The town of Shimanto is designated a cultural scenic area of the country. Forests where fairy pitta birds fly, the crystal waters of the Shimanto River, and the scenic beach of Komuro. This area with bountiful nature—mountains, a river and the ocean—is boundlessly magnanimous. Throughout this project, we were impressed with the warm gentleness and verve of the land, and this deepened our consideration of the form of a building which should be there, not only in the present but also into the future.
The true worth of a dwelling is determined by how it matures with the passing of time. As a building ages, its significance of existence also evolves. We have worked through this project pursuing all these matters. Our core consideration was the significance of design, and the Shimanto house was built upon this foundation.