Courthouse of Kawachinagano

Osaka, Japan
Fujiwaramuro Architects
Katsuya Taira (Studio REM)

What does it mean to design an interesting space? Is it about creating unique experiences? Or is it about embodying the true desires of those who spend time within that space to make a tailored fit to the user's lifestyle? Good architecture creates environments for its inhabitants, and those environments create stories and shape experiences. And this notion is reflected strongly in the work of Fujiwaramuro Architects, a Japanese design office led by Shintaro Fujiwara and Yoshio Muro.

Take, for example, Courthouse of Kawachinagano, a minimal two-storey dwelling in Osaka Prefecture. The architects explain:

Visibility from nearby houses was a concern on this lot in a suburban residential district. We wanted to find a way to achieve both privacy and abundant natural light even in this challenging environment. The client also wanted the house to be private, as well as to have an open-feeling courtyard.

Fujiwaramuro were tasked with a way to incorporate natural light without sacrificing privacy. And the solution to that was including an enclosed courtyard with various rooms in the house opening onto it. Small slit windows, skylights, and clerestory windows facing the exterior were included so that a succession of views illuminated by different kinds of light unfolds as one moves through the house.

As one passes through the entrance, a hallway with a double-height ceiling and a large stucco wall illuminated by a skylight beyond it come into view. Continuing down the hallway, one sees a small courtyard garden, or tsuboniwa, also lit by a skylight. Further past this garden, the open-plan living-dining-kitchen area opens up on the left, with the bright central courtyard beyond it. Past the stairs leading from the hallway to the second floor is a lounge area where one can enjoy views of the tsuboniwa and the blue sky above it.

The central courtyard and tsuboniwa are planted with trees selected by a landscape gardener. The result is a private residence yet also offers the pleasure of watching the seasons change from many different places and in many different kinds of light.

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