Japan - Page 5

Tsuta House by SPEAC – more than a renovation

Photo © Takeshi Yamagishi
When so called “IVY House,” an abandoned house in Tokyo renovated by SPEAC, was posted at ArchDaily and Dezeen a few weeks ago, it was not received well by their readers. It made me wonder since the house captured my heart instantly. I started to think about a cultural difference in food. Most Japanese would salivate seeing alive fish, but on the contrary, Westerners would react differently – many of them associate the smell of bad fish. Unless you grew up in Tokyo in the late ’60s through early ’70s, probably it’s difficult to see this project the way I do, and for most, probably it’s just meaningless.

The original house was something typical that I had seen as a kid growing up in a middle-class neighborhood of Tokyo in the late ’60s. One has to understand the living standard of middle-class Japan during the ’60s through the early ’70s was that of a lower class in the United States. I grew up both in New York and Tokyo as a child and could never forget the contrast between the two very different qualities of lives.

It’s easy to figure out that this project had a small budget from the start, and that made the outcome of the project special. Let’s put it this way, a middle-class home built in a developing East Asian country in the late ’60s gets a recession-style makeover of 2009. What we see here is nothing fancy or cool (well, it is actually COOL). The void between the two eras, before and after the collapse of the “bubble economy” in Japan during the ’80s, is omnipresent throughout the house. If you cannot appreciate it as a good renovation, I suggest you see it as art!

I will omit the statement from SPEAC and call it Tsuta House instead of IVY House on this blog Continue Reading

SPEAC, inc.

One thing I have noticed since I started to post about architecture here is that I receive amazing architectural renderings from young architects in Europe and other countries but have never seen such things from young Japanese architects. The young Japanese architects seem to have more opportunities to build new houses and buildings, and that may have something to do with the fact that I have hardly seen a jaw-dropping architecture proposal by a young Japanese architect – I only get to see actual results in photographs. However things are changing, and now there are too many aspiring architects in Japan trying to win fewer projects compared to maybe a decade ago. I started to see more cases where a few architects working together on a relatively small project. As a matter of fact, I often find a project which is done by a group of architects more interesting than a solo work.

It is slightly different from, say, a group of three designers working simply on a same project together, but here is an even more interesting example how younger architects try to thrive in a shrinking market. The three partners of a Tokyo-based firm SPEAC, Inc. all studied architecture. Atsumi Hayashi, one of the two founding partners of the firm, studied architecture at the elite “Todai” (The University of Tokyo), then real estate development at Columbia University, and worked at McKinsey & Company before establishing SPEAC. The other founding partner Hiroya Yoshizato studied architecture at the Tokyo Metropolitan University and cofounded RealTokyoEstate, a real estate company, with several others prior to establishing SPEAC with Hayashi. Hiroyuki Miyabe, the third partner, who joined SPEAC in 2007 has focused on architectural design since his graduation from The University of Tokyo. Miyabe worked for a renowned Japanese architect Atsushi Kitagawara before his research at The Technical University of Lisbon.

SPEAC is a multidisciplinary firm, and by looking at their resumes, it’s not so difficult to guess the roll of each partner at SPEAC. In fact, it is much easier than to imagine how multiple architects work together on a small to midsize project in Japan. We are going to show one of SPEAC‘s smaller projects tomorrow (or the day after…), which I personally fell in love with, but first, I would like to encourage you to explore SPEAC‘s website.


Photo © Sadao Hotta
This is a renovation of a 770 square feet apartment in Tokyo. Imagine a family of five living in such a small space – you need to be clever and imaginative, for sure Continue Reading


Photo © COGITE
It is fair to say that Galvalume® sheet roofing and siding combination is the most popular exterior option for a low cost housing project in Japan these days. Galvalume is a fantastic material developed by Bethlehem Steel Corporation (dissolved 2003) in ’72, and the world wide production is continuously rising since its introduction. The problem in Japan is that most home owners try to build new houses, but the budgets are usually very limited. As a result, there are too many hoses with a warehouse-like appearance (and often in black or similar dark colors!). But that doesn’t make me want to hate Galvalume sheet steel. What I would like is to see more architects willing to make houses look a little more special with this overly popular material… like this new house designed by Cogite, who does great job in the deep south of Japan Continue Reading


Photo © Katsutoshi Sasaki + Associates
We had a short series of posts last year showing houses and a building designed by Katsutoshi Sasaki in Aichi, Japan. The latest project completed by his firm last month has a unique shape to help reduce wind resistance due to the strong western wind in the area during winter. Continue Reading

House in Maihama by Yoshitaka Arita

Photo © Shinkenchiku-sha
The old house had moisture and security (i.e. burglary) issues before it was replaced by this new house. There was also another problem the young couple wanted to solve when they decided to rebuild a new one on the same site – reducing the vibrations from the Metropolitan Expressway running near by. To build their dream home, the client couple hired Yoshitaka Arita, a Tokyo-based architect who had studied architecture both in Japan and the UK. The architect focused on three things – raise, solidify and lower the gravity center. To achieve these three goals, all three construction methods common in Japan were applied. Reinforced concrete and steel frame were used for the first level. The second level, which is the family’s living quarters, was built of wood frame construction Continue Reading

Lazy Friday ~ Links

Who: Hironari Itoi, Jyunichi Sugiyama and Tomokazu Shinohara / sside architects
What: Single family residence
Where: Hino City, Tokyo
When: January 2009
How: Two-story wood frame construction
Site Area: 1,353 square feet (125.74m²)
Construction Area: – (-m²)
Total Floor Area: 1,071 square feet (99.54m²)
Photographer: Taizan Kamijyo

Who: Atsuhiro Koda and Momo Sano / comma design office
What: 6-unit apartment
Where: Suginami-ku, Tokyo
When: March 2008
How: Two-story wood frame construction
Site Area: 1,506 square feet (139.90m²)
Construction Area: 747 square feet (69.38m²)
Total Floor Area: 1,494 square feet (138.80m²)
Photographer: Takumi Ota

~ House in Tsu ~
Who: Yuji Okamura / TKO-M.architects
What: Single family residence
Where: Tsu City, Mie Prefecture
When: August 2004
How: One-story reinforced concrete construction
Site Area: 3,781 square feet (351.22m²)
Construction Area: 2,127 square feet (197.64m²)
Total Floor Area: 1,550 square feet (144.02m²)
Photographer: Tamotsu Kurumata