The proposal for a community housing development in Tomisato city, a small town close to Narita Airport in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture, takes as its point of departure the Japanese concept of Engawa or verandah space that can be found in many forms of traditional housing types. Designed by INDEX architecture, the competition called for the design of eight detached houses on a semi rural plot that questions the validity of suburban expansion. Therefore, their design proposes a new approach to living on the fringes of the Tokyo ‘megacity’. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The Engawa space typically forms a perimeter to the internal spaces of a house and creates a type of interstitial buffer zone between the interior and exterior of a house – a space neither of the inside or the outside. Traditionally, the Engawa has been used as a kind of outdoor room flowing directly from the house which particularly during the warmer seasons was a place where one could appreciate the beauty of nature.
Contemporary house design, particularly in urban and suburban situations both in Japan and internationally, has abandoned many aspects of the traditional dwelling. The everyday lives of city dwellers leave little room for sentimentality and as such the modern house is understood as a machine for living that fulfills the functional requirements of a residence and very little else. The product of this approach is a way of living that has lost connection with a sense of the communal, both within the organization of the dwelling and within the structure the neighborhood.
The IN‐Gawa housing project seeks form a new kind of architectural and urban relationship that fosters connectivity and communality both within the structure of the house and its neighborhood community. Central to this approach is the re‐imagination of the Japanese concept of Engawa. Instead of locating verandahs at the perimeter of the house the design sets up a series of internal verandah spaces that run between the rooms of the dwelling. The In‐Gawa cuts through the plan connecting the house to the outside through framed views of the exterior garden spaces. Like the engawa, the In‐Gawa connects to the main spaces of the house and forms a kind of break out space that allows the activity of residences to overflow from different rooms into the central space.
The In‐Gawa adds a new level of flexibility to the use of the house. By creating an undefined space at the centre of the house rooms can expand out or be closed down depending on the requirements of the residents. While the design as it stands suggests some very basic possibilities for house the space might be used, ultimately the user can dictate the organization of these spaces. In addition to the spaces of In‐Gawa itself, the design system allows for the inclusion of additional flexible use spaces that pin‐wheel off the In‐Gawa circulation. These spaces can be used for home offices, a single room dwelling that can be rented out to a tenant, a studio space or an additional room to house elderly or other relatives.
At the level of a neighborhood the concept of In‐Gawa is used to form a communal space that connects the eight detached houses to one another around a shared community garden. Between the two rows of four houses a strip of communal space is cut. Houses are orientated onto this space and connected directly to their own individual In‐Gawa. The community garden is designed to accommodate group activities such as small farm plots, cultivation of ornamental fish, children’s play areas as well as space for small neighbourhood festivals and events.
Architects: INDEX Architecture Location: Tomisato, Japan Design Team: John Doyle, Laura Mártires, Takasumi Iinoue Status: Competition Submission Project Year: 2012 Site Area: 2,583 sqm Total GFA: 1,247 sqm