House in Matsubara / Ken’ichi Otani Architects

© Koichi Torimura

Architect: Ken’ichi Otani / Ken’ichi Otani Architects
Location: Setagaya, Tokyo,
Structure Engineer: Yukihiro Kato / MID
Structure: Timber construction
Site area: 70.00 sqm
Built area: 39.84 sqm
Total floor area: 95.64 sqm
Project Year: 2006-2007
Photographs: Koichi Torimura

The design project, a small residence for a young couple, is located in a dense residential area in the suburbs of Tokyo where exterior wall of houses and fence are constructed along their lot boundary rejecting humane communication between the houses and the street. It should be noted that an empty land before a house and exterior walls are built could share common and flowing space with surrounding environment. This is an experimental project to design a house taking in the atmosphere of surrounding environment, especially front streets, to the building site and creating a new environment by adding a house on the site. At the same time, the house interior was designed under the constraints of a small building lot in the suburban environment and a small volume defined by the exterior façade.

site plan

The house has two angled façades to the street; the east external wall is slightly inclined inside to simulate a towering crag.

© Koichi Torimura

An open garage faces to the street, and a two-story small front yard is placed behind the garage a narrow opening. The front yard, surrounded on three sides and open on one side, leads to the entrance. The front yard works as a buffer zone between the outside street and inside private residence. Through the front yard, interior and exterior spaces come into view alternately; when one looks down from the second floor through the yard, he experiences the interior and exterior views alternately. As a result, one’s sense of distance varies from the actual distance and becomes much longer.

© Koichi Torimura

There is no a specific space in the building, but four layers of different characters, such as space like an alley, space like a curved cave which can’t be seen through, spacious room with high ceiling, and a place like deck float to view silhouettes of high-rise buildings. At the same time, set-backed inclined external volume forms two small places to interact with the street. The slight inclination of the east wall and the deformed floor plan distort one’s perspective and refuse one to grasp the volume correct. This illusion causes spatial perception to swing, and changes the perception of vertical and the horizontal dimensions. The perception of the space varies depending of one’s standing.

© Koichi Torimura

By continuing and layering spaces of different characteristics in the building, one experiences physical and psychological sense of distance. The gap in experiencing different spaces with time can expand the frame of limited spaces.

Cite: "House in Matsubara / Ken’ichi Otani Architects" 01 Apr 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Doug

    Another concrete, white walled, empty building…. what’s the deal. Ick.

    • PatrickLBC

      Doug… I can’t speak for this architect, but personally I find this style very appealing. It is like providing a white canvas for the residents to paint their lives on. With all the angles and unique spaces, this interior could have easily become overwhelming. By restraining the palette of colors and materials, the space is more serene and able to adapt to the tastes of whomever may live there.

      Having said that, I wish they would have photographed the spaces after occupancy. These do look rather lifeless.

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  • up_today_arch

    but it is a new trend… it is up to date! Few years ago you are was not too mach bored, when one moore brick house with red tiled roof rised in your neighborhood? All of us, me and other architects, who loves modern architecture, we building exectly what we love!

  • squidly

    The house in not concrete. It’s wood framed. The workmanship is incredible, especially on the stair, which i assume is steel.

  • abe

    Boring architecture.

  • claudem

    might as well share lunch with the neighbours! desiger forgot they have them….and overlooking too! fine!
    can just hear them say ‘bless u’ every time they sneeze and smell every time they….bloops!

  • claudem


  • Dmytro Tereshchenko

    I think thats awesome! love this elegant simplicity!