- Architect In Charge: Toshihiro Aso
- Design Team: Toshihiro Aso Design Office, Shimura Architects
- Collaborative Architects: Takuma Shimura, Shimura Architects
- Structure Engineers: Hirohide Tao, Momi Architects
- Country: Japan
Text description provided by the architects. My clients were a couple – an office worker and a stay-at-home wife - with a child and two dogs. “We want a garden and… a local community to feel that we are part of the community.” This was the wish list my clients shared with me when I received an order for designing their house. For the clients, who have already moved more than 10 times so far, building their own house is part of making their dream come true - “to have their own local community.”
The plot sits in a suburban residential area, 15 minutes’ walk from a small station along a local line. The location is the perfect distance for the husband to bike to his office, ideal for the family to make it their living area. It’s along a road which leads to a detached housing complex built on developed hilly land in the1970s, fields and orchards – a legacy of the time when the land was used primarily for farming – and the neighborhood is dotted together with houses and parking. Over relatively lush greenery, a light breeze flows through in the clear, blue sky, so refreshing. The premises is not by any means large, yet, a 50%building coverage ratio inevitably promises space for a garden, even if small.
On top of this, the land comes with this wide open sky that only a low-rise residential area on hilly land can offer. I started this project off considering such elements as resources of the land. Having your own garden is the biggest draw in building a house in the suburbs.
Yet, if the family were to make this house their permanent home in this suburban residential area, a family or self-centered garden with a wood decking enclosed by high walls and fences as if it were an extension of their family-room won’t do. The garden which stretches to the adjacent field is the core of this house, a place for the family to casually meet and socialize with the locals everyday.
A sidewalk leading to the garden invites people into the garden and lets them drop by under the eaves of the roof that extends along the garden. With this arrangement, the house, the garden and the community generate synergies, allowing the family to develop a mellow relationship with, and engage in the local community.
In the house formed like a bungalow with a large opening facing the garden, the family’s lifestyle is closely connected with the garden. The building envelope stretches out toward the garden and up toward the sky. The ground floor, up 460 mm above ground, is covered with wood flooring boards and plays two roles, as an arena for the family’s daily life and as a porch. Their child and dogs
play around the kitchen set at the center of the stage whilst the family and the neighbors, as well as the sunlight and fresh air comfortably come in and out under the eaves of the roof. The wood-sliding windows under the eaves give a warm feeling to the space, unlike cold aluminum sash windows, and welcome everyone to sit on the edge of the floor. The sloped ceiling transforms the second floor into a relaxing attic with a roof-top terrace.
The wide open sky embraces the terrace like a ceiling, and the morning sunshine comes through slated windows on the east. As you follow the sunlight, the sky spreads out before you. I named this house “Garden House (Niwa-ya)” to link it with the Japanese traditional merchant house (Machi-ya)” and “row house (Naga-ya),” but more importantly, with the aim of wiping out the typical image that modern families have towards a suburban house with a garden.