Charred Cedar House / naf architect & design

© Noriyuki Yano / Nacasa & Partners

Architects: Tetsuya Nakazono / naf architect & design
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Engineer: Kenji Nawa / NAWAKENJI-M
Program: Single family residence
Site area: 172.55 sqm
Building area: 61.38 sqm
Total floor area: 114.50 sqm
Project Year: 2009
Photographs: Noriyuki Yano / Nacasa & Partners

Design Concept

The site is located in a district where many traditional sake breweries preserve good old Japanese street with plaster and charred cedar walls. In winter, during sake brewing season, a cloud of steam comes out from red brick chimneys of the breweries and the scent of sake wafts in the air. “Charred Cedar House” stands in such neighborhood.

first floor plan

Fence made of charred cedar shields three sides of the plot to save the privacy; east side from an adjacent house, north and south side from public parking where cars come and go around the clock. West side of the house borders directly nostalgic street of traditional houses and brewery warehouses of white stucco. The house remains open to the street to blend in the scene although trees may be planted in the future.

© Noriyuki Yano / Nacasa & Partners

The house consists of three layers of different nature of space. Seen from the street, the first layer is a black box, the second layer void with spindly oblique pillars randomly piercing the space and the third layer gable black box floating on top.

In the first layer, there is no conventional Japanese entrance to take off shoes but an entrance hall with sand cushion brick-paved floor which leads directly to all the other rooms; main bedroom, tatami room, bathroom and spiral stairs to upper layers. Entrance hall, tatami room and main bedroom are partitioned by sliding doors and when fully opened, the first layer becomes quasi-outside. Sand cushion bricks were paved in the entrance hall to make a semi-outside/ semi-inside space in terms of material and nature of space which leads gradually to more private space.

© Noriyuki Yano / Nacasa & Partners

From the entrance hall, stairwell partly covered by translucent FRP passes through the second layer, void, and leads directly to the third layer. Stairwell is covered by FRP in the second layer and only light can be taken into the stairwell. It serves as “light well” during the daytime and diffuses light to first and third layer.

Up in the third layer are living, dining and kitchen. On the floor are two openings; one from the stairwell from the first layer and the other to the second layer, sole access to the open space by ladders. Third layer is wooden structure, and beams and roofboards are all exposed. It is a nest-like enclosed space with picture window on the north and south and tiny round windows.

© Noriyuki Yano / Nacasa & Partners

Down the ladders from the third layer leads one to 360 degree-view of glass walls on the second layer which is assimilated to the open air. There are many one-story houses in the vicinity and view from the second layer stretches over far-off brewery warehouses, town houses and brick chimneys. The second layer, open and transparent, is visibly most accessible from the outside but physically least accessible and deep-set.

Each layer of the house has different degrees of visible, physical and social accessibility from the outside which simply cannot be measured by the composition of the three layers. The complexity of the relations within the house offers various options for relations to the society.

© Noriyuki Yano / Nacasa & Partners

Structure Concept

Steel-frame structure was employed for first and second layers as application of slim materials is available by concentrating the stress. Third layer, on the other hand, employed wooden framework construction method which was developed from traditional Japanese method. Structure of the first and second layers is distinctive with employment of φ100㎜・φ140㎜ steel pipes for first layer andφ60㎜ steel pipes for second layer, all of which are oblique in different angles. In Japan, a seismic country, diameters of pillars tend to be large to resist the force of earthquake and installation of bearing walls with braces tends to be frequent practice. The framework is calculated on the assumption of resistance to enormous force of earthquake which does not exist in everyday life. However, pillars of extremely small diameter can resist vertical and horizontal load simultaneously when correctly tilted and positioned. When this formula is found, the space free from enormous force or conventional structure method floats in the air as natural as up above brunches of trees.

Cite: "Charred Cedar House / naf architect & design" 07 Feb 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Dustin

    I love this!… so original.

    • nikhil

      another creative work?…..nice work

  • chris

    loving the space between the upper and lower storeys.

  • that’s what she


  • Robin

    I like this one a lot, but, please ArchDaily, learn some grammar! (I hate to be harsh but at times posts like this one are hard to read. And no offence to the poster, as I’m sure he knows his stuff.)

    • sullka

      Let me tell you how logic or common sense works.

      The architects provide the pictures, drawings and texts. The architects are Japanese, due to the grammar I must assume they don’t speak english and used an online translation service.

      See?…it wasn’t that hard.

      • bst

        wow, that was a jerkish reply. your attempt at an insult via your statement on logic and common sense make, well, no sense. it could’ve been presented as: “the text is likely submitted by the architect and a direct translation using babelfish or some other form of online translation service.”
        see?…it wasn’t that hard.

  • juliano Teixeira

    nice project, but i cannot understand why the intermediate level does not accommodate people spanding straight on their feet. I mean, are people supposed to crawl on this level? someone please explain….

  • Mark

    Robin, I think the text in these posts comes from the architects themselves, so this is probably a translation from Japanese that wasn’t done by a professional.

    Also, this is a beautiful house. It manages to have the shape an feel of a more traditional wooden house, but with an extraordinary amount of light and openness, especially on the lower level. Nice work.

  • WSBY

    nicely weird! I love this

  • Andrew Geber

    nice house
    you guys know you have a problem with images right?

  • Małgorzata

    The house is nice but looks so vragile, that I wouldn’t like to be in it during the storm.

  • up_today_arch

    I realy like this project! It is crazy, but nice:)…
    It is close to H.M. Vitra house, close to Fuksas Milano Exib., a lot of ideas in small building, and it works!

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  • Modern Zen Architecture

    I love it too! It’s bold, new, and refreshing! I would love it more if they can convince me that it really could withstand earthquakes up to a reasonable level. I could read their claims that the structure is indeed earthquake proof, but my eye and brain tell me that there’s no way that thing could stay left standing after a minor 4.0. Maybe it could. Would like to see the data that backups their claims

  • d.teil

    i ike the idea too, but i do not think for this certain area the second layer is waste of money. it would be freestanding or would have some wonderful views, i would like it more. but it seems to 3 sides there will be not worth view to use this level in a very good way.

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  • ballistamagazine

    How is this building still standing? It’s episodes like these that make you realize the quality of talent in Asia. Great work.

  • juliano Teixeira

    Someone please explain how people walk on the second level… the ceiling height is 1.40 meters ONLY!

    I am desperately curious…

  • D. Gordon

    The Japanese are not know for their terribly tall stature, but……in Japanese homes, doors may be typically only 1.8m high, but ceilings are usually 2.4m high. It’s not unusual to spend much time on the floor in a Japanese home, so I’m assuming that’s the intent for this level of the home. The too-low-to-stand ceiling and complete lack of a guardrail does makes one wonder about how strictly their codes are written or enforced, though.

    I doubt the translation was done by an application as Japanese/English translation software almost always renders gobbly-gook. I’d guess the architect or a friend did the translation. Before we get too critical, consider that their English is probably better than our Japanese (!).

    • juliano

      well, you found reasonable words to explain the architect’s abstract inttention that may be laying behind this non-functional whole second level.

      but i still cannot believe that an architect could build a whole level on a house – with a great potential to be a place where intensive meditation or even big parties could be thrown – where people needs to crawl in order to move themselves around it just to materialize a metaphor about japanese social and moral codes. it gets downs to me as a sad and awful project flaw, an undeniable error because of a fetish that should have been discarded on the very beginning merely because this space does not fit people.

  • Nicholas Patten

    I'd Live Here: Charred Cedar House.

  • WPstudios

    RT @nicholaspatten I'd Live Here: Charred Cedar House.

  • Bo Ling

    There’re many conflict of functions in this house. But I love the structure, complicated but not too messy.

  • dhani

    i like this house.originally idea which dividing traditional mass then slid contemporary shape between of them. but, the 3rd floor like a cake on toothpicks planted.

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  • arnold

    very eccentric house. very choleric house. in the old style japan house surrounding, this house looks interesting and impresive. Like “future home system”. But I can’t see any logical architectural decision. it’s three level house. and in the third level they have kitchen and dining room. I see, that they never lived in the three level house. From the logical and functional decision – this house is nonsense; but if you look at this house from exclusive, advertisement, challenging point of view – this building is good.

    But in this house I’ll never live. Yes, for weekend entertainment it could be a good place to spent spare time, but to live here – never.

    • juliano

      what do you think about the 1.4-meter-height ceiling on the 2nd level? do people have to crawl instead of walking through it?

      can it be some japanese cultural thing that I might be missing?

      this is nothing functional at all! i really would like to understand why these architects decided to build a house with a ceiling where people cannot even stand straight on their feet because of a 1.40m-height ceiling on a whole level!

  • Los

    +1 Arnold
    And what about thermic insulation and indoor comfort? The cavity connecting the intermediate and top levels visually and the thin polycarbonate cylinder containing the stairs and are nice but are surely horrible in terms of thermic comfort. Hiroshima’s average weather is not that warm and sunny…

  • Dan

    Speaking of Stucco, you should check out this video animation on You Tube:

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  • DARB

    the local authorities in japan are very strict in structural design for a very good reason – so definately no problem with the structural design there.

    everybody is harking on about the translation and i agree with the sentiment that it would have been written in all liklihood by the architects themselves with their (very common) portable translator ( but these are far from perfect. you have to give kudos to them for their efforts. my japanese is good, however, certainly worse than their english is.

    the space on the second level is interesting. does all spaces, accessible or not, have to be practical, logical or functional? isn’t a part of the delight of architecture to find such “non-spaces” throughout the experience of being in and around a building? the japanese do have a litany of small spaces, and general speaking they are specific to their uses. you will also see on a regular basis that the architects will in fact have professional photographs taken prior to handrail/balustrade installation as they feel it tends to detract from the minimalist (sadly almost clinical…) ethos that is rampant throughout japan. you only have to view ito, sejima and nishizawa’s work to see this. you also have to understand that differences between japanese and non-japanese clients. japanese clients tend to follow the architect without question which is in direct (typically, but not always) opposition to that of non-japanese clients.

    all in all, interesting work with relevance to the site (orientation, materiality, spatial design etc), culture and use.