Chthonic is one of our favorite words; originally an Ancient Greek word meaning “of the underworld,” in the architectural context it has come to signify buildings that cause the user to feel as if he or she is within the earth. Examples include Peter Zumthor’s Thermal Baths, or Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building at Yale, which use stone and concrete to evoke caverns and caves. But now, the Earth House by Nobuhiro Tsukada Architects, located in Saitama, Japan, creates this effect by using actual earth.
The house is located in a semi-rural area outside of Tokyo, with plenty of open land giving strangers a full view of the site. Thus, one of the client’s primary concerns was privacy; to address this, he requested that the house be organized around a courtyard with rooms facing inward. However, the site was too small—either the courtyard would be tiny and useless, or the living space would be cramped. To solve this problem, the architects lifted the courtyard up to the second floor, with a funnel of earth reaching down to connect it to the ground. This funnel is contained within a concrete structure which acts as a sort of umbrella for the house, channeling rainwater into the courtyard. Second floor rooms face the courtyard, while the first floor gets most of its light from skylights opening onto the space. This means that every view from the house will be of the beautiful trees and flowers to be planted in the garden, and that within the living spaces, inhabitants will feel the security, comfort, and strength that comes from dwelling within the earth.
Image by Nobuhiro Tsukada Architects via Architonic
Images above by Tomohiro Sakashita via Architonic