House N

Oita, Japan
Sou Fujimoto Architects
Iwan Baan

Located in an inconspicuous street in the city of Oita, Japan, is a very unique proposition in residential architecture. Encompassed in a single volume, it is a conceptual exercise about privacy, and a contemporary variation of Japanese minimalism. From the outside in, the dwelling reads as a broken cube with slight hints of what may nestle inside it—from the interior one can witness the hustle from the street but also cherish privacy when necessary.

House N was designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects for a couple and their dog, resulting in a nimble programme with great focus on living areas and hand-picked vegetation. Consisting of three shells, each one offering a unique proposition. Each section has uneven openings, varying in size and heights, making for a dynamic form factor.

The outer shell, or first section, is gifted with trees and a wooden deck for lounging and gatherings. Adopting a garden often employed in larger green areas, the residence gains a truly unique perspective about what it means to be indoor or outdoor from the get go. The architect introduces his idea of breaking conventions and brings new conversations to the forefront.

A distinct boundary is nowhere to be found, except for a gradual change in the domain. One might say that an ideal architecture is an outdoor space that feels like the indoors and an indoor space that feels like the outdoors. In a nested structure, the inside is invariably the outside, and vice versa.

The second section has a living room and kitchen, showcasing a paradoxal design mixing both narrow passages with a high ceiling. The juxtaposition of amplitude and compact living is another unexpected facet of the residence. The third section nestles the bedroom and dining area right in the middle. It is important to note that the classic idea of absolute privacy and refuge is not addressed nor attempted.

The architects pushed the boundaries of privacy in a daring exercise of minimalism as the guiding element of the daily life. House N was custom-made for its inhabitants, leading them to adapt themselves to new possibilities and habits. A surprising presence on whoever observes it from outside as well as those living within.

My intention was to make an architecture that is not about space nor about form, but simply about expressing the riches of what are “between” houses and streets.

In the shop