© International Royal Architecture

Clean Cut: 12 Japanese Homes Carved With Precision

Eric Baldwin Eric Baldwin

Japanese architecture has become synonymous with exquisite craftsmanship, minimal surfaces, and playful spatial experiences. With designed simplicity and careful attention to ephemerality, Japanese architecture invites speculation and wonder. As we’ve covered through our previous collections on Japan, including themes of concealment, origami, transparency, and concrete, Japan is known for rigorous and restrained design. Often, some of the most powerful Japanese projects are private homes, places where domestic life and precise formal moves combine. With the majority of the country’s population in dense urban environments, new projects require critical attention to surrounding contexts while maximizing interior space and views.

Inspired by Phaidon’s book Jutaku: Japanese Houses, we’ve drawn together a number of Japanese houses that are carefully cut, notched, and carved. Using these larger moves to embrace light and reveal different moments, the residences explore unique relationships between program and envelope. Usually compact and efficient, the projects retain a sense of poetic geometry and a rich understanding of scale. While they represent diverse construction methods and material assemblies, the projects all embody a controlled, calculated approach to fenestrations and how to shape building façades. Together, they begin to show how designers can push normative boundaries through hard edges, sharp lines, and clean cuts.

© Nacasa & Partners inc.

© Nacasa & Partners inc.

© Nacasa & Partners inc.

© Nacasa & Partners inc.

House of a Backstage by Masahiro Miyake (y+M design office), Tokushima, Japan

Located in a district with views to Mt. Bizan, this family house uses a “big wall” which cuts undesirable views while maintaining privacy inside the house. A “backstage” area was created that combines different spaces and mixes various spatial roles and relationships.

© Kai Nakamura

© Kai Nakamura

© Kai Nakamura

© Kai Nakamura

House AA by Moca Architects, Nara, Japan

House AA was made with a singular formal roof element that rests above three rooms. Sited in the residential area of Nara, the project includes deep eaves and garden space that’s visually connected to multiple rooms.

© EASTERN Design Office

© EASTERN Design Office

© EASTERN Design Office

© EASTERN Design Office

Mountain & Opening by EASTERN Design Office, Takarazuka, Japan

Conceived as a house or “mountain” with a large office “opening,” this residential project was built with a new topography that responds to the slanted ground of the surrounding neighborhood. Two mounds were built up upon the slope and the house rests within them.

© Studio Velocity

© Studio Velocity

© Studio Velocity

© Studio Velocity

Montblanc House by Studio Velocity, Japan

The Montblanc House includes both a residential program and a small beauty shop. Creating an open space in a tightly enclosed site, the project uses a gabled roof and continuous exterior space to bring in natural light, air, and views. The building’s windows and voids play with the volume’s scale and the scale of the surrounding neighborhood.

© Takumi Ota Photography

© Takumi Ota Photography

© Takumi Ota Photography

© Takumi Ota Photography

Kiritoshi House by SUGAWARADAISUKE, Oamishirasato, Japan

Embracing sunlight and expansive views, this residential project is located on the border of new development and pastoral fields. With a simple form, the building was made to link the interior of the house with the exterior scenery outside.

© Kochi Architect's Studio

© Kochi Architect's Studio

House Kn by Kochi Architect’s Studio, Miura, Japan

Located in a suburb of Miura, House Kn was designed as one carefully carved rectilinear volume. Positioned to fill the site, the project was then formed with a big window to connect to the surroundings.

© Yasutaka  Yoshimura Architect

© Yasutaka Yoshimura Architect

Nowhere but Sajima by Yasutaka Yoshimura Architect, Sajima, Yokosuka, Japan

This residential project was designed as a holiday rental home located an hour outside of Tokyo. Created as a large aperture to the ocean, the project simultaneously draws attention from the nearby road and condominiums.

© TETSUO KONDO ARCHITECTS

© TETSUO KONDO ARCHITECTS

© TETSUO KONDO ARCHITECTS

© TETSUO KONDO ARCHITECTS

House with Gardens by Tetsuo Kondo Architects, Yokohama, Japan

House with Gardens was designed within a quiet residential district in Yokohama. With vertically organized rooms, the house mixes exterior space into interior living quarters. Gardens were strategically placed to be accessible from each room, while openings were oriented toward the sky.

© International Royal Architecture

© International Royal Architecture

© International Royal Architecture

© International Royal Architecture

KKZ by International Royal Architecture, Setagaya-Ku, Japan

KKZ is located in the cozy town of Setagaya-Ku. Programmatically, the project includes a child room, dining, kitchen, living space, and private rooms.

© naf architect and design inc.

© naf architect and design inc.

© naf architect and design inc.

© naf architect and design inc.

House Snapped by naf architect and design inc., Saitama City, Saitama

Located on an L-shaped plot and corner site, this residence was designed as if the building was snapped in two. Sliding doors were used to partition four zones, including a yard, entrance, and the two building volumes.

© International Royal Architecture

© International Royal Architecture

© International Royal Architecture

© International Royal Architecture

KHT by International Royal Architecture, Nishimurayama District, Japan

Designed as a two-family residence in Yamagata, KHT joins two houses together through a shared terrace. Steel sheets were used to seamlessly connect the two spaces.

© FUTURE STUDIO

© FUTURE STUDIO

© FUTURE STUDIO

© FUTURE STUDIO

Wrap House by FUTURE STUDIO, Hiroshima-shi, Japan

Wrap house was designed to enrich interior living spaces through the wrapping of privacy, spatiality, and sunlight. Sited in a flat residential quarter, the project includes a wall which runs along the perimeter of the site to create a void and “sunlight well” on the north side.

Can’t get enough of these Japanese homes? Check out Phaidon’s book Jutaku: Japanese Houses to get your fix!

Eric Baldwin Author: Eric Baldwin
Eric Baldwin is the Firmwide Communications Manager for Perkins&Will. Based in New York City, he was trained in both architecture and communications with a background spanning media, academia, and practice. He is deeply committed to trying as many restaurants as possible in NYC.
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© Pedro Kok, architectural photography

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