Two young Japanese architects have transformed an ordinary piece of suburban architecture into a house with a double identity: fragmented on the outside and continuous on the inside.
This project addressed the refurbishment and extension of a small, wooden, two-storey house. Built around thirty years ago, the existing building is of a type that occurs on a widespread scale in Japan. The designers were Mizuki Imamura and Isao Shinohara, two young architects – one born in 1975 in Kanagawa and the other in 1977 in Aichi – who worked at SANAA for a number of years. In 2008 they set up their own practice, miCo in Setagaya, Tokyo.
The architects describe it as "attempting to interpret this district, densely dotted with wooden houses as a "compact cluster of timber frames: a landscape that we thought we could modify". The use of a load-bearing, timber structure enabled the architects to add or subtract beams and columns enabling a wide range of possibilities during the refurbishment while being able to respond to the demands of the family.
The load-bearing structure of the old house was thus modified without having to be conditioned either by the site or the existing construction. Instead of creating something completely new, Mizuki Imamura and Isao Shinohara of miCo came up with a building that demonstrates a certain age and can be slowly modified over the course of time.
The house is accessed from the street through a narrow entrance. Surrounded by similar houses, at the back is a small field that in the future will be built on making this plot of land both shaded and poorly ventilated. The architects decided to create three separate units, of which one is an added volume while the other two result from the subdivision of the existing building.
These design decisions have made the scale of the building smaller and more delicate and softened the sense of rigidity expressed by the adjacent buildings. The organisation in plan of the new separate volumes has given each space its own external area in such a way as to resolve the problems caused by the shade and excessive ventilation.
The three units are connected together by two tall and narrow transparent volumes. At the same time, they constitute a single continuous room, onto which face a bedroom and a small studio: from the outside it is difficult to imagine due to the fragmented appearance of the building. Inside, new and existing live alongside one another : the old columns are distinguished from the others for their mature colour while the roof can be glimpsed above the original structure.
House at Komazawa Park
Architects: Mizuki Imamura + Isao Shinohara / miCo
Structural engineering: Tatsumi Terado Structural Studio
Building area: 46,46 smq
Total area: 72,14 smq
Costs: 9.000 €
Design phase: 2009- 2010