The Fukasawa House, located in a suburb of Tokyo, looks simple and unassuming from the street. On the interior, however, this home is a design marvel. Designed by Japanese based architects MDS, the house experiments with the characteristics and limitations of wooden structures. Fukasawa House uses V-shaped posts to support beams constructed from common timber. This arrangement allows for a open, large rooms that are divided by the wooden posts rather than solid walls. Wood framed structures are often an obstacle for modern designers. MDS took this obstacle and turned it into a playful, daring structure. The use of wood in this home allows for an aesthetically pleasing environment. But the ideas behind this residence are the true driving force of the design.
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The 63.02 Degrees house by Schemata Architects is located in the dense urban jungle of Nakano, Tokyo, Japan. Completed in 2007, this enduring celebration of concrete and spatial efficiency highlights the raw beauty and tactility of Japanese minimalism. On a mere 48sqm site, I find the interaction of existing and introduced elements to be very Japanese; discreet, respectful and (surprisingly) playful. Understated and elegant, the transition between the three levels, materials and functions seems overtly effortless. I am particularly drawn to the consistency of the seamless palette of materiality. The dedication to the minimalist style is also to be congratulated. It is a much disciplined dedication indeed. Considering the site’s obligation to rigid context (being in Japan) it is refreshing to see space freed. Schemata Architects have re-invigorated their approach to the façade interaction with the streetscape. Purposely rotated (63.02 degrees) on this narrow restrictive site, the external walls deliberately open to maximize existing views and create landscape viewing portals. This place of quiet, in amongst a city of noise is perhaps the perfect epitome of what every house (rotated or otherwise) should aspire to.
idea ink is a series of Japanese books focusing on the theme of “ideas of the future”, published by Asahi Press and designed by Tokyo-based design studio Groovisions. The books focus on themes from gastronomy; environment and social issues to information graphics and even love and the quest for marriage outside of Japan. The graphic design for each book is clean and crisp, yet colorful and alive at the same time. A refreshing approach considering the excess of graphic information in a city such as Tokyo, yet still coherent with Japanese philosophies of simplicity and elegance in style. Groovisions also have Muji as their clients, another Japanese company notable for its minimalistic products. I particularly love the monoweight lines of the illustrations and the pastel color pallete. One of the things I love in Japanese design is the potency of “silent” designs, and to me this definitely falls into that category.
Recently I have been writing about residences which use minimalist design to focus the user’s attention inwards, rather than on the outer landscape. Today I will continue this trend by presenting yet another home which seeks to shield itself from its surrondings. Located in Tokyo, “Ring” is a simple home designed by Apollo Architects and Associates. The home gets its name from a large, cantilevered wall which circles the second story. The wall projects out from the top story; creating a covered entrance and hidden balcony. Inside, a simple floating staircase takes center stage. The staircase leads from the entrance on the ground floor to the living areas on the upper floor. The bedrooms rest privately on the ground floor. “Ring” is just one of the many innovative residences designed by Apollo and Associates. The Japan-based architects seem to have a knack for combining conceptual design with functional homes. I love how this home derives its form from such a basic shape. “Ring” is surely a soothing and peaceful place to dwell.
Located in Tokyo, Japan, the Long Tall House is designed by the Japanese architecture firm SPACESPACE. The home is sandwiched between two traditional residential buildings in a busy neighborhood. This home acts as a clean white escape from the chaos of the big city. As the name suggests, the house is long and tall. Five stories span across the 4 x 16 meter site. The home is partially built into a retaining wall, creating the condition for two floors of basement. The basement levels are made from concrete, while the upper levels are clad in white timber. The north and south facades are covered with aluminum panels that can be raised or lowered to shade the street-adjacent windows. The interior is elegant and functional. A narrow spiral staircase provides the circulation between floors. White walls and hardwood floors provide a lightness and livability to the space. All of the storage is hidden within or behind the walls. This house truly illustrates how to make the most out of tight spaces. The architects took an unusually shaped lot and turned it into a wonderful family residence. This house is both simple and complicated: simple because of the calming materials and clean...
Today we’re taking a small trip to Japan, to meet the work of a great minimalist Japanese architect Katsufumi Kubota and more precisely the T-House, a housing project located in Kanagawa prefecture southwest of Tokyo. It is a monolithic, two-storey reinforced concrete construction, built on the slope of a hill, which takes great advantage of the surrounding view through a wide opening on the first floor. I love the contrast between the clean and crisp atmosphere of the interior and the natural environment. And what could be more impressive than a swimming pool at the house entrance? The project was awarded the Dedalo Minosse International Prize 2007/2008 Special Prize.
Tokyo based Japanese designer Makoto Koizumi has created this beautifully simple and award-winning cookware series – Kaico. The series includes a tea pot, coffee pot, pasta pot with a steel strainer insert, as well as various sauce pans. Created in white enamel coated steel with maple wood handles, the Kaico series certainly has a classic yet rudimentary aesthetic to its pieces, as well as being durable and thermal-efficient. Because of the smooth, semi-gloss finish, the cookware is also easy to clean. These would undoubtedly be a welcome addition to my kitchen from a visual perspective, but I’d be interested to know if anyone has previously bought any pieces from the Kaico series and what their thoughts are.
Japanese artist Kumi Yamashita (1968) is known for creating realistic imagery from invisible sources. Her shadow art has earned Yamashita international recognition with works appearing in such venues as Seattle Art Museum, Boise Art Museum, Yerba Buena Centre, San Francisco, the Esplanade in Singapore, Hillside Gallery in Tokyo and the Kent Gallery in New York. The pieces are comprised of ordinary everyday things and a single light source, which brings these objects to life. Alphabets and building blocks, scattered across the wall, become realistic human figures, coloured resin plates give shape to facial silhouettes, and credit card imprints create portraits. Yamashita’s precision is staggering. It is amazing to see how these sophisticated, coherent and very detailed images have been originated. These works are exhaustively complex in execution and yet manage to remain simple and minimal to the eye. Kumi Yamashita will be having solo exhibitions at the Sato Museum, Tokyo and the Dillon Gallery, New York in 2012.
Japanese product designer and art director Teruhiro Yanagihara of Isolation Unit has designed TYP – an elegant collection of leather goods for the Tokyo based leather manufacturer Morpho. The collection essentially comprises a variety of booklets or wallets, a brand concept derived from a paper and stationary theme. Available in ISO standard paper sizes (C4, A4, A5, B6, A6, A7), TYP has a very thin and simple design, which is emphasised by the closing mechanism that works only through folding. The booklets are also available in a variety of colours.
The 9 Hours is a capsule hotel: a Japanese hotel concept with sleeping pods instead of rooms, and shared bathrooms. They target hard-working business people and travelers. Usually, these capsule hotels are far from well-designed. The 9 Hours is nothing like that. Instead, it’s an amazing example of applied minimalism. The 9 Hours is managed by Tokyo-based Cubic Inc., and designed in a collaboration with designer Fumie Shibata of Design Studio S. Monocle recently did an excellent report on the hotel, which we have embedded here. (Thx, Peter!)
Is it art or architecture? The simplicity of modern Japanese minimalism amazes me. Stark aesthetics and a great sense of balance driven by moral virtues. Japanese architect and designer, Jin Otagiri, built the ultra minimalist Ghost house in Suginami, Tokyo. His idea of a house experiment was recommended for the Architectural Review’s Awards 2007 for Emerging Architecture. A crisp, white box. Well, it is very white. All white, except for dark wood floors. Good thing. The most impressive aspect is the essential elements; the walls, ceilings, white space and the way the light hits every angle. They become the design drivers. Refreshing. Amazing how much can be done with so little. Oh, I just discovered my New Year’s resolution. Did you? Happy New Year!