Stark grey precast concrete, with an orderly gridded pattern covering every single surface visible to the eye. Large openings, pouring skylights, verdant greeneries embracing the neighbourly views. Monolithically, House in Ashiya by Japanese architecture firm Kazunori Fujimoto Architects stands still like a gentle giant in a residential area of Ashiya city, Hyogo Prefecture.
With the given name, the project projects itself as a family dwelling. However, volumes of void within the structure, in combination with elements such as cool grey tones that dispel any warmth that’s associated with familial qualities, and peculiar circulation arrangements, one can instead read the project as an installation that experiments with living behaviours. Exhibiting geometric angles at perpendicular angles, intersecting cubic aggregations create an airiness that lifts up the brutalist sculpture. Here and there, lines of metallic materials heighten the sense of industrial living conditions that is often present in urban spaces. The insertion of rectangular openings, however, gives soul to the structure through a visual connection of inside and outside. The visibility of surrounding trees breathes a subtle warmth to inner space, whisking one’s thoughts of manmade nature.
This is also apparent in the concrete spiral staircase that was parametrically planned and casted onsite. Using digital softwares to calculate, edit, and maximise the concrete’s tensile qualities, the architects were able to minimise material use and produce a graceful object that elevates the experimentation aspect of the house. Next to the form is a metal ladder that connects three different levels, each with their own focus. By removing the human presence within the space and leaving only daily fixtures, the interior is twisted and transformed into a museum of objects, to be spectated by the inhabitants.
Here, the voice of architecture is greater than ever: it becomes the impending force that manoeuvres activities; but the volume is not overbearing. In fact, the architecture’s sound is silent. Navigating through different interstices, one can sense a serenity washing over the entire structure. Therefore, while the project’s outlook is rather cold, it holds intimate dialogues that are spoken among territories.
Living rooms with white furnishes and occasional additions of black furniture, a monochromatic palette dilutes any contrast. Perhaps, the building then modestly turns itself into a minimal canvas for people to occupy; the aforementioned voice that’s loudly silent might not be entirely dictating after all. When movements are controlled by physical devices, colours then act as a factor in diversifying gestures.
In this minimal project, one can insert oneself in its simplicity and start to read all its complexity. The articulation of execution made House in Ashiya a median of different forces that push and pull human behaviours. It is this dispute that makes one question and see a project beyond its appearance.