A retired couple bids farewell to life in the city and moves to Mount Yatsugatake on the island of HonshÅ« with a desire to spend the remainder of their lives farming their own vegetables surrounded by mountains. They buy a plot of land to build their new house at an elevation with a harsh and tricky climate, too hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Carrying forth the Japanese tradition of coexisting harmoniously with nature, Tokyo architectural firm MDS designed a structure oriented to capitalize on the prevailing winds, optimal sun angles, and best mountain views–with not an air conditioner in sight. Let’s have a look.
Photography by Toshiyuki Yano via ArchDaily.
Above: A detail of the living room looking toward the combination kitchen/dining room. The charred wall is a Japanese tradition known as shou sugi ban. In Dark Wood: Shou Sugi Ban Torched Lumber we explore where to source charred wood.
Above: In the living room, sliding glass doors detailed with shoji screens slide open to allow in breezes, while the overhang is designed to keep out the high angle of the summer sun. The low angle of the sun during the winter, however, means the house can be warmed when it’s cold outside. The exposed beams hide the tracks for the shoji screens and the sliding glass doors.
Above: A woodstove keeps the rooms warm during the winter.
Above: The kitchen and dining area opens to a washitsu, a Japanese room furnished with tatami mats.
Above: In the kitchen, housecleaning tools and utensils hang in the space under the stairs.
Above: A view back toward the dining area from the washitsu. The continuous shoji screens give the house a traditional feel.
Above: The second floor is an open loftlike space with a sleeping and office area. The door leads into the walk-in closet.
Above: The work area with shoji screens runs the entire length of the room.
Above: When the shoji screens are closed, the bedroom becomes a sanctuary.
Above: During the summer months, the north- and south-facing windows are opened for optimum breeze ventilation and mountain gazing.
Above: The wood details are an updated version of traditional Japanese wood architecture.
Above: A detail of a wooden screen.
Above: One is never far from nature, even in the bath.
Above: The house is oriented south in a fan shape to maximize the amount of winter sun that reaches the rooms.
Above: A plan and diagram of the first floor illustrates all of the considerations that went into the siting of the house.
Above: A plan and diagram of the second floor.
Above: A fully noted section of the house illustrating sun angles and breezes.
Above: The living room and veranda.
Two French architects find design inspiration on a trip to Japan in Before and After: A Charred Wood Cottage on a $45K Budget.
This post is an update; the original ran on October 27, 2014, as part of our Lessons from Japan issue.
See more interpretations of the Japanese shoji screen from around the world: