A House Awaiting Death / EASTERN Design Office

© Koichi Torimrua

EASTERN Design Office shared with us their latest project, designed for a very particular client, awaiting for his death.

You can read the complete story behind this project, with photographs by Koichi Torimrua

1. A House of Rising Sun

“A house awaiting death”, the client said to us.

© Koichi Torimrua

“I will die in 15 years. It will be a house awaiting that death. The building is fine as long as it lasts 15 years. Something small would be good.”

“I have found the place.” A patch of land on a peninsula facing East. “I’m glad the land faces East. I hate the sunset.”
“When I die it won’t be sunset, it will be sunrise. When the final moment comes, I will face the sea and depart on a ship flashing towards death. It’ll be a time revealed after death.”

This is what the client ordered for his house. A view of the magnificent sea in the east where the sun rises. This is the land he chose to live out his final years.

The portion of the sea we have captured encompasses the peninsula that appears on both sides of the site.

concept diagram

A four-meter wide gravel and dirt road runs in front of the site. On the other side of the road is a park-golf course where several elderly neighbors enjoy their leisure time. There is a seashore behind the breakwater wall. If this were a standard house the sea would barely be visible from the site.

The ebb and flow of the tide changes with the seasons and the time, but the distance from the site to the waves is generally about 150 meters.

The height of the floor is nearly 8.6 meters from the horizon and was chosen as the perfect height to view the waves from a sitting position.

The client said to us, “The floor of this house must be raised, so you are the right architects to design such a house.”

Suddenly, towards that seashore, towards the seacoast, we faced.

general section

On this map the route is a 180 km journey each way. Our chests brimming with anticipation and hope.

The coastline where the site is located is beyond the scope of this round map. This round map encompasses the area of our activity in . This project takes us to a beach beyond sublime Suzuka mountain range, yonder past the ravines of the Ise Penninsula, and exceeds the boundaries of this circle!

© Koichi Torimrua

Early morning light streams through polygonal windows. With the overlapping windows and accumulation of light and shadow, the entire building erupts in a hymn to the morning.

2. Sea

The distance from the site to the waves is only 150 meters. The breadth of the beach extends for 7 kilometers. The sea is boundless.

What we wanted to capture in this architecture was how to appreciate the appearance of waves. How can architecture showcase the waves and make them appear? It is not just a building with an ocean-view, but a place to observe the ever changing waves.

Waves. This sea is blessed with good waves so even in winter surfers come to enjoy the surf.

floor plan

“Are you going to live alone?” we asked the client. He said, “Alone. Sometimes I want to call over friends.” Then after returning to solitude, “I want to hear the crash of a wave.”

His request was for a house awaiting death, for the moment when life is extinguished, not the sunset, but the desire to see the sunrise. We always remember the depth of those words that came from a single person.

He wants to anchor his life before he sails away from the sea coast flashing towards an unknown shore. This is the house we are going to design.

How do we interpret his message?

© Koichi Torimrua

We are not only designing a house, but are creating the port from which his liberated mind will depart across the ocean. This is what our work must encompass.

Therefore, this house sees waves. We want to make you think that the waves part of the interior of the house. It is not simply a house open to the sea. We were not satisfied to design a house with a sea view just because the seacoast is a mere 150 meters away. The sea must be incorporated into the open space of the house.

This form draws in waves. This window captures waves. In this house. Waves … are never the same throughout the day…. Opening the doors of this house we are surprised that “Ah, this type of wave appears today.” We designed it this way to appreciate the appearance of waves

How does one see a wave?

© Koichi Torimrua

It is not a boundless steady blue ocean. The tide, bubbles, and grains of sand are constantly emerging. Unsteady waves, the solitude and calmness of a placeless and solitary man, these are what we want to capture in this new house.

Everyone knows it is not a vague and limitless sea. It is also not an horizon. The sea is “the appearance of waves”.

People want to know the meaning of the sea.

The architecture will reveal this meaning.

3. Blue Butterfly

The Site is 440 sqm and the Floor space is 73 sqm. It is a house facing the East. The following is a brief list of postures that a person assumes when watching the waves:

  • Watch the waves while swaying in a rocking chair
  • Watch the waves to observe them while eating and drinking wine.
  • Watch the waves and sink into them while sitting on a couch.
  • Watch the waves alongside your body as you walk around the room.
  • Watch them while talking and rolling in laughter with friends
  • Watch the waves coming to water’s edge while reclining on the wooden lounge

These tangible activities and the places they occur governed the form of the architecture. The way to appreciate the appearance of waves can be designed based on this comprehensive drawing of the house. It was drawn in such way.

© Koichi Torimrua

Each posture is different → Different heights necessary to capture the waves → Various shapes of windows → changing appearance of the waves

Yet these are all the same. Waves will penetrate your eyes, chest and shoulders when you are in it.

The plan takes V-shape that will draw the waves. In other word it is expected to open to the waves. Slits are cut on a V-shaped wall. Through the edge of slits, watch and listen to the waves while lying on a wooden lounge or while standing and cooking. (This time we did not incorporate slits on the exterior wall, but use them on a symbolic interior wall.)

This form was born from the client’s request, “When the final moment comes, I will face the sea and depart on a ship flashing towards death”.

You are amongst many suns. The fact is that you cannot go beyond the sea allows you to have an illusion. Symbolizing the spirit of navigability people used to have. To embody such notion, to ease up the fear of death, anchors are set to this architecture.

It was our intention to symbolize an outlaw who has lived a life of relentless rage and a voyage with ready to depart with anchors aweigh.

The disposition of a man who has unfastened an anchor is light. Suppose a dream he dreams is a butterfly. The image of him swinging in the rocking chair shall be deemed as a butterfly.

© Koichi Torimrua

A blue butterfly is a symbol of the blue ocean. It also symbolizes people going to fly in a free manner. The blue wings of a butterfly were designed into the windows.

The blue we find there is the same blue of the ocean.

It is also a wavering light of the waves which can be seen when looking up the surface of ocean from the bottom of the sea.

Radiant sun rising from the east.
The sea and a butterfly
A man ascending up to the sparkling surface of the sea.

What is the ocean? It is a wave. “When the final moment comes, I will face the rising sun and depart on a ship flashing towards death. At that moment the imaginary sun is not one. There are many suns. In the imaginary world he becomes a butterfly. The blue wings of a butterfly are the waves of a blue ocean. Looking up from the sea floor there is a sparkling ocean. These images are shaped into the form which is fit for a man who lives between the sea and a single room.

© Koichi Torimrua

・The rocking chair is set at the top of the V point. It is the center of his entire sea.

There are two walls overlapping each other. Two openings are made on them with different shape.
These two overlap each other between the rocking chair and the sea and make into one form.
Like squeezing a wet cloth with both hands, these two different shapes of windows crop the blue seascape. Like a drop of water, waves appear from these different window shapes.

We sometimes still ponder why this client could give us such an request. Is it the death of his friend or is it his underlying nature that had planted him an idea of his house. We do not care whatever underlies in him. There is a fact that we had such an order from him and we have to comply with his message. On this process we find the possibility of architects. There must a form that is embodied by strangers. The two shapes into one form. In the form, everything changes like undulating waves. This is the message of this architecture.

The house built in response to the client’s request, “I want you to build me a house awaiting death” is a house where a new “beginning” can be seen each day.

Cite: "A House Awaiting Death / EASTERN Design Office" 09 Sep 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 17 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=77271>

20 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Fantastic, how come this house, is more optimistic than most of Japans modern houses?
    I must admit, I would love to have such a client, and I love the playfulness of the building. The solution is pure poetry.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    We are all dying, but when is uncertain. Perhaps this should remind us to design places as if it is our last mark on the earth. Imagine how different the world would be.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The conceptual argument of this house is perverse but not at all morbid. There is a bright side to the death of this man, that he may live out his life in the architecture of his choosing, built to accomodate his last wishes of seeing the sun rise rather than set. The specificity of such a request and yet the openess of the poetic interpretation leaves us with a beautiful architectural solution. Simple and accomodating. Is that all architecture should be?

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      You have seen the mind of the client!
      Yes, that is what the architect is supposed to do – to interpret the intent, and translate it into a coherent space that evokes a Spirit (as defined by Louis Kahn).
      This design is not trivial or “stylistic” in any way – it explores Essence. Please see other comments for clarification.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    To paraphrase Mother Ann – live your life as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you might die tomorrow…

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    loves to read this real poetic article
    loves to know that to live is to die

    just like i just watched the documentary film of someone who wants to make his house be lived with his remaining life

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This is the second time I have come across a house that was built for clients who intended for the dwelling to be their final destination before death. The other house that was designed with a similar request in mind is the Pachacamac Hill House by Luis Longhi Architects in Chile, which was built for a philosopher and his wife who wanted a beautiful house that they could share until they pass away.

    The most striking similarity between the two is the significance of the natural environment and surroundings in the designs; just as the wave is all encompassing in the house above, the Hill House was carved into a hill and made one with its surroundings. It is rather fascinating that as the sun rises along the paths of both houses, a multitude of windows allow for a bath of natural light to come pouring throughout the space.

    Both are oriented east to west to follow the suns path; the consideration of the natural environment in the designs is remarkable and admirable. I would love to see all architecture perfectly orchestrated with its surroundings like these two dwellings no matter what the occasion.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    why do almost all examples of contemporary Jap residential architecture give an impression that the Japanese like to live in houses meant for non-human – and lifelong single – robots? the by-now-almost-cliched-blue-gray bare concrete with the Andoesque puncture marks, spotless walls without a single framed photo/painting, bare tables and floors, and almost all the time 1 BR or at the most 2. and black. and grey. and antiseptic hospitalesque white. is this the same Japan that the world always knew know — bright kimonos and cherry blossoms and zen gardens and cute dolls? or is it some other kind of Japan that has come to being suddenly? and don’t the Japanese start families??? this kind of architecture is becoming a cliche now. “OVERdone” i think, will be an underSTATEMENT.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      i’m japanese, but i can’t understand why many japanese want to live in like this house, as you do.
      nothing more than art , unusual object and beautiful box…
      the cliant is pleased with it is good thing. no ploblem.
      every person is different.
      but i think , this kind of house is not attractive.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Are the anchors to hold the house down when the sea rises above it’s normal high tide level? Global warming?

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The real intellectual challenge behind such a brief is to Understand Death. The Japanese have a unique philosophy of putting their affairs in order before they die.
    This neatness of thought (as in almost all Japanese thought) speaks volumes … which translates here into a deconstruction of Death, distilled into an eternal Being (the Spirit of the form, as defined by Louis Kahn).
    To answer a question about the temporality of this home, it’s made of concrete, and should be inhabited by people like the client … the Spirit of the home will gain, in a palimpsestic way, layer by layer, soul by soul, meaning upon meaning…
    There is nothing trivial about this home. It explores the deepest realms of sapience, both origin and end … and continuation.

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