Stairway House

Daici Ano, Takumi Ota

Staircases are often staples in multi-storey homes. They don’t just perform a basic ascend/descend function, they also offer an opportunity to create a particular design characteristic in a home. In the case of this residential project by renowned Japanese studio, Nendo, we see a stairway like no longer.

Located in a quiet residential area of Tokyo, Japan, Stairway House was designed for a two-family unit of different generations, and is centred around one major feature—its stairs. Immediately, you notice the key difference between a typical stairway and that of this exquisitely minimalist dwelling—it runs from the outside to the inside.

With other houses and apartment buildings pressing around the site, the architectural volume was pushed to the north to take in daylight, ventilation, and greenery of the yard into the living environment by a large glass front southern facade. The layout plan made it possible to preserve the existing persimmon tree beloved by the previous generations.

Considering the potential difficulties of going up and down the stairs, the rooms for the older couple were arranged on the first floor. The eight cats (yes, eight) living with the older couple roam in and outdoors more freely, and encourages the mother to enjoy her hobby of gardening more freely.

The younger couple and their child reside on the second and third floors. To avoid the two households being completely separated at the top and bottom, a “stairway-like” structure was designed in the south yard, continuing upward into the building and penetrating the first through third floors. Enclosed inside the “stairway” are functional elements, such as bathrooms and a staircase for actual use, with the upper part taking on the look of a semi-outdoor greenhouse with abundant greenery as well as a sun-soaked perch for the cats to enjoy climbing. And so, a stairway and greenery gently connected the upper and lower floors along a diagonal line, creating a space where all three generations could take comfort in each other’s subtle presence.

The house has it all, but still manages to feel effortlessly minimal. It is undoubtedly a grand design, yet it’s a home designed for simple and slow living. Stairway House is certainly one of the most striking and architecturally impressive designs we have had the joy of featuring. A true minimalist marvel.

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