A blank canvas is a perfect object that embodies the notion of timelessness. It can lie still yet transform with the artist's brushstrokes. Minimalism is much like the aforementioned canvas. It provides a vessel of blankness, which can be observed and absorbed by many. While it's often associated with contemporary, it does not always speak of the now. In many cases, it transcends time and space due to its simplistic quality.
Using the idea of only providing a bare framework, Makoto Yamaguchi Design renovated an old wooden private house into an apartment that is known as Hanegi G-House. Completed in 2010 and situated in Setagaya—where the largest population of Tokyo, Japan resides—the project is embedded in-between residential structures. Although the surrounding aesthetic remains unchanging with white brick facades and vertical fences, the inner space is an open plan with only a few elements of the past.
Within the context of a dense metropolis, the tube-house typology poses a challenge for the designer. To lighten up the long and narrow space, the architect demolishes most of the partitions and inserts small openings as pockets for natural light. Glass barriers are integrated to separate different building programs and still maintain a visual clarity throughout. A white palette covers every wall to give an airiness, complemented with grey tiles on the ground floor and wooden planks on the second floor.
The complexity of spatial design does not stop at material play. Paying homage to the original structure, Makoto Yamaguchi Design leaves traces of the olden times throughout the renovation. Wooden beams and columns are left intact, crossing and cutting into the open plan at peculiar locations. Not only do they further create interstitial spaces within Hanegi G-House, but they also accentuate the starkness with warmth and familiarity.
As surface area is more generous on the ground floor, the columns are left unpainted. They create a geometric system that playfully elongates the visual space and pulls one in. The upper floor, with its slanted roof, receives a camouflaging effect to simplify the view toward the balcony. Coincidentally, the painted columns become an art installation that’s both intriguing and nostalgic. A few particular beams stay untreated, exposing their raw characteristics as if pieces of nature are brought in with whimsical subtlety.
Hanegi G-House is a collaged image with fragments of nature, traditions, and the past. When looking, one can find a door leading out to the lush backyard, the Shoji dividers with their translucent screen made of thin paper, or structural remnants of the wooden shell. They all contribute to a minimalist whole, modestly rest in their respective places. Over time, they become those elements of timelessness, which weaves in the threads of past and present.