House in Bukyo

Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Hiroyuki Hirai

This one-story wood house, located in a residential district of central Tokyo, accommodates a couple and their single parent in separate living quarters. The house is composed of a residence for the mother, who has continually lived on the site, a residence for her daughter and son-in-law, and the exterior space with courts, terraces, and a garden between these elements.
This design emerged from my wondering if I could revive the spirit of the traditional Japanese domicile we knew until recently, whose interior and exterior spaces enjoyed mutual permeation. Avoiding the usual solution to designing for a metropolitan setting -the high-rise residence encased in non-combustible materials- I adopted what has become an anachronism in today’s urban environment: a one-story wood house with a court. In doing so, I was pursuing an inheritance of the site’s character and history, which meant the ambiance of closely built townhouses that has always characterized the Japanese city. I was also attempting to realize an environment for ground-level dwelling within a high-density city.
To these ends, I gave special care to the relationship of the interior spaces to the yard, filling the distance between interior and exterior with a gradual transition of spaces from court to terrace to plantings. I sought to preserve as much as possible existing things in which the residents’ memories reside -trees and shrubs, a garden lantern or washbasin- wanting to give care to the continuity of memory a city place holds for the people who live there.