Text description provided by the architects. The architectural program for this project was to rebuild a house in a residential subdivision developed about forty years ago. Many houses from that era remain in the neighborhood today, and this new structure follows their lead in terms of the shape of the roof, color of the exterior walls, and other elements of the overall form. Looking at these older buildings, one notices that the one-meter-wide margin of space around them that is required by setback regulations is typically a simple gap used for storage or to house utility pipes or appliances such as air conditioning units. Even when the setback is wider, the orientation of the properties often means that large windows in neighboring houses look out on these open spaces, making privacy difficult to obtain.
On this property, the longer sides of the lot were particularly exposed to neighboring houses. We responded not by widening the exterior gap but instead by bringing the edges of the building right up to the setback lines and including a buffer zone on the inner side of the exterior walls, thus distancing the living spaces from neighboring properties. On the ground level, the buffer zone consists of a concrete-floored entryway extended around part of the perimeter so that it enwraps the living spaces. The buffer zone on the upper level consists of a veranda enclosed by sliding paper screens (shoji) that shield the space from view but still allow light to pass through, creating an ambiguous sense of separation from the adjacent houses. In several places, the screens are interrupted by wooden doors that push out at the bottom, letting in breezes while maintaining privacy.
While relationships with the surrounding community are important in housing developments, privacy is also essential. In this project, the buffer zones serve as that point of distancing and connection; by locating them inside, it was our intention to create a surplus zone beyond the areas essential for daily life. Meanwhile, the core living spaces are covered by a single large roof with skylights running all along its length. These skylights admit an even sunlight to the entire house, including the main room, kitchen, study, and even the bathrooms.