House in Shimogamo

Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Hiroyuki Hirai

This two-storied house is located in an urban area at the foot of the Kitayama mountains in the northern part of Kyoto. Covering almost the entire site, the house is two bays of 3.2 m in width and three bays of 4.0 m in depth. At the core of the steel-frame structure, I created an inner court measuring one bay by two bays in plan. The rest of the house consists of a steel frame with exterior walls made of formed cement plates, steel window frames, and gate doors. Designing this house, I was fully aware that contemporary urban houses seem real only to the extent that they are unique solutions to a number of fixed preconditions. Nevertheless, I made an attempt to develop, not just a specific solution, but a prototype of the urban house of the kind that has been a dream of 20th-century Modernism. I therefore concentrated on incorporating new ideas into the planning and structure, which had been the most important aspects of modern architecture.
In designing the house, privacy was not my main concern. Instead, I focused on the relationship between the exterior space − that is, the inner court − and the rooms facing it. The result is a large three-dimensional living space, with individual rooms that are independent yet interrelated. Nor was I concerned too much with the structure. Instead, I treated it as merely one of the basic elements from which the whole is assembled, in order to create the effect of a single functional unit. It seems to me that, several decades having passed since the heroic age of modern architecture, the time has come to reconsider the implications of the machine age for architecture.