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work House in a Plum Grove

location Tokyo
architects Kazuyo Sejima & Associates
structural engnieers Sasaki Structural Consultants
mechanical engineers System Design Laboratory
general contractor Heisei Construction
site area 92.30m2
building area 37.20m2
total floor area 77.68m2
structure steel frame; 3 stories
pricipal use residence
completion date December, 2003

The house sits in a corner of one of Tokyo’s residential quarters


CLIENT The copy-writer Miyako Maekita, and her husband

who is an advertising film producer

SITE 92.30 m2 where beautiful plum trees and wild flowers

grew, which made it look like a real garden inside this resi-
dential area

WHY SEJIMA “light, clean and white, no bravado at all”

rejected the idea that a house should represent economic

power and attract attention

‘A house is a place for attuning your mind, for tempering

the body, so it needs light and dark, the right sense of ten-
sion, so it really doesn’t have to be cosy.”

‘Something like a temporary perch”

‘It’s quite small, not really a place to relax.’

‘a neutral house like a blank canvas, no obstacle to living

or raising children.”

“a house like a one-room studio”

LDK: to challenge the LDK housing scheme: 2-3 bedrooms + living room
(L) + dining room (D) + kitchen (K).

Inside this white cube is an unconventional living space where a fam-

ily of five can perch within the ecosystem of the Japanese family and

house as compact as possible

‘one-room lifestyle’, an accumulation of different rooms linked together

4+1 = big livingroom, bedrooms small, but get only 18 square meters at

against one bedroom per person, and then squeeze in a common

space almost as an afterthought. = why not make lots of little rooms?
DIVIDING THINGS: dividing things up, a more definitive dismantling of
the space than the LDK model. By subdividing the space into small
rooms, one could be free to choose.

PRIVACY: bedroom smaller, for instance, one might gain another ‘re-
treat’, thus offering a choice according to one’s mood.

NO ORDINARY WALLS: walls to render independent rooms together with

holes in the walls to connect them. Thus the rooms feel both connected
and independent.

NO WALLPAPER: (superficial decoration) = painted interior

SPATIAL COMPOSITION: eliminate the feeling of depth. makes the room

itself look flat, like a photograph. You can’t tell how deep or shallow the
space is.

OPENINGS: each cutting only very ‘incidentally’ into the other

Bathroom and toilet Daughter’s study and bedroom Little son’s bedroom Detached room connected to Study seen from the 3rd floor
the study and the main bed- stair well

Daughter’s study, bedroom and the living room Rooftop garden will be covered with lawn The second living room overlooks the rooftop garden
Kazuyo Sejima established her practice Kazuyo Sejima & Associates in 1987
and she has built extensively since. Her projects include Gifu Kitagata Apart-
ment Building in Gifu, House in a Plum Grove, Small House In Tokyo and Oni-
shi Hall in Gunma, Japan. She is currently professor at Keio University, and
has taught at ETH in Switzerland, Princeton University and Harvard University
in the United States.

Ryue Nishizawa established his practice Office of Ryue Nishizawa in 1997. His
projects include weekend house in Gunma, the Moriyama House in Tokyo,
and China House in Nanjing, China etc. He is currently teaching at Yoko-
hama National University where he graduated, and has taught at Princeton
University and Harvard University in the United States.

Ms. Sejima and Mr. Nishizawa established SANAA in 1995 as a collaborative

office that focuses on international projects. Recent works of SANAA include
21ST Century Museum of Contemporary Art Kanazawa, Japan; Christian Dior
shop building in Tokyo, Japan. Other projects that are in progress include
new Louvre annex in Lens, France; EPFL Learning Center in Lausanne, Swit-
zerland; Novartis Campus Building, Switzerland; Glass Pavilion at the Toledo
Museum of Art in Toledo, United States; addition and renovation to the In-
stitute Valencia d’Art Modern (IVAM) in Valencia, Spain; and New Museum
of Contemporary Art, New York, United States. Often referred to as an ar-
chitect’s architect, SANAA has avoided a signature style while embracing
qualities of light, transparency, and openness.
The house appears as a white closed cube as it is located in
exterior is coated with reflective paint, so summer heat can
one of the corners of the site. The door is fused with the wall, the
only get in through sealed portals, but there’s no stopping ra-
doormat and a small cantilever being the only signs of its pres-
diation, so in the end we put in insulation. In Europe they typi-
ence. Furthermore, instead of conventional windows, a few flat,
cally use a thickness of 100 millimetres, but in this house there’s
square cuts are made on the exterior walls, without any seeming
no more than 30. Sheet metal cools very quickly, so the insula-
order. The logic comes from the inside. Refusing to create stereo-
tion prevents the coolness from passing through.
typed rooms with a collection of arranged furniture, Kazuyo Se-
We used very few air-conditioning units. There are ducts that
jima proposed to reduce each room to particular furniture or an
go to the very highest point, which serve to return warm air to
action. For instance, the bedroom of the children is composed of
the bottom and circulate it throughout. There’s good airflow
one room-bed and a room-table. In that way, 17 different rooms
overall through the rooms.
were created, which together were arranged on a 77.68 m2
floor area and distributed on two floors with the tearoom on the

SAVING SPACE Having such a small surface, it was used to its

maximum. The structure of the house is built with steel sheets,
which reduces the thickness of the external walls to 50 mm and
the interior walls to 16 mm. In that way, the structure, walls and
the floors merge together and each part appears to have the
same weight.

CIRCULATION Interpreting the idea of ‘a one room studio’, the

architect connected the individual rooms. She made cuts in
the internal walls of the adjoining rooms, and left them without
any glass. This offered new possibilities. Some rooms look out-
side through another room’s window. The air flows freely through
these openings from room to room, and the boy or his cat can
enter or exit through these openings at will. No space is shut off
completely. Consequently, offering such a choice of different
actions, the idea of privacy turns elastic. The members of the
family can choose their place according to their moods, want-
ing to be alone or with others.