Symbiotic House

Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
R.E.A.D. & Architects
Masaya Yoshimura/Copist

Symbiotic House (short for Symbiotic House for Life After Retirement in Karuizawa) is a minimalist architecture project that poetically links generations through its form. By grasping an intangible value and transforming it into a physical element, R.E.A.D. & Architects have altered the way one conceives built structures. Form no longer only follows function; it now also follows emotions.

Residing near Mount Asama of Nagano Prefecture, Symbiotic House is composed of two geometric concrete volumes. Blending themselves into the courtyard’s grey pebbles, their symmetrically slanted roofs mimic the mountainous peak in the distance. Parallel to each other, they seem to be having a conversation in the verdant surroundings, which are graced with beams of sunlight shining through tall canopies. These nature blessings make a perfect site for a resting home, where quietness is filled with the sounds of morning birds and late-night insects.

Symbiotic House was built for an elderly couple to spend the rest of their years. The tranquil ageing process is in dialogue with the forest, which can be observed from all sides of the interior. Full-height glass facades complement the rough concrete surface to lighten the inside, bringing natural light onto the wooden floors and furniture. The addition of organic textures and a brown palette gives cosy warmth to the stark interior. At some corners, house plants curve and rise like rhythms of a harmonic life.

Whereas the larger structure is dedicated to the couple, the smaller volume acts as a unit for their children and grandkids. The two masses are connected with a small corridor that overlooks a budding garden. While maintaining privacy, the corridor is an interstitial space that helps flow living activities from one side to another. It modestly stabilizes physical separation and generational differences, linking passages of time-continuous and endless.

As a considerate gesture, the architects dedicated a room adorned with traditional elements, including tatami mats, tokonoma, and paper screens. At moments throughout the property, small details like a conventional tsukubai adorn corners with a touch of nostalgia. These intricate instances act as memories for the residents and valuable relics for the modern time.

Symbiotic House is a residence filled with complex emotions. Time stops to give people across generations a moment to enjoy the beauty of life. A three-dimensional snapshot of history, the house records human movements and sentiments through physical linkage. At times, a simple gesture is all it needs to ignite all the senses within one.

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