Glass Houses: 7 Japanese Residences That Bare All

Lindsey May Lindsey May

If indeed all the world’s a stage and we are all the players, this collection of Japanese houses, puts the private life of their inhabitants front and center by embracing façade transparency in unique ways. With sweeping windows, open-floor plates, and outdoor living spaces, these projects bring the interior life of the home to the world and at the same time bring the world into the life of the home. This dualistic element to transparency, that the more you are exposed the more you may see, creates a design tension, especially in domestic architecture, which traditionally is divided between public facing and private space.

One of the primary goals of façade transparency in architecture is to allow the transmission of light and air into structure. In several of the projects featured here, their specific urban contexts result in very narrowly proportioned sites. The high degrees of transparency allow sunlight and ventilation to permeate an otherwise shaded site. The other primary goal of façade transparency is to afford views between the exterior and interior. As a result of the transparency, the project is tied to the site by incorporating views as a regular facet of the project’s inhabitation and also by encouraging a more fluid inside-outside lifestyle.

Inspired by Phaidon’s irresistible book Jutaku: Japanese Houses, this collection aims to garner new views on transparency in Japanese homes.

S Houseby yuusuke karasawa architects, Saitama Prefecture, Japan

A series of split and interconnected floor plates, this house’s transparency allows a clear reading of the internal geometry from the outside.

House NA by Sou Fujimoto Architects, Tokyo, Japan

Devoid of solid partitions, House NA is a transparent matrix of floor plates and connecting stairs. Light streams through this space and illuminates the open, fluid space of the home.

Villa SSK by Takeshi Hirobe Architects, Chiba, Japan

Situated on the ocean, the transparency afforded this seaside home incorporates the expansive vista into the daily life of the inhabitants.

House in Takadanobaba by Florian Busch Architects, Tokyo, Japan

Situated between two larger developments, this site was a leftover sliver of urban fabric with the narrow proportions of only 15 feet wide and 72 feet deep. The broad windows on the façade allow the interior to maintain high day lighting capacity.

Life in Spiral by Hideaki Takayanagi Arch&Assoc, Tokyo, Japan

The various activities of daily life emerge radially from a central core. This core is articulated as a folded plane moving vertically through the structure. This weaving core is a visible spatial organizer due to the transparent façades.

House With a Large Hipped Roof by Naoi Architecture & Design Office, Ibaraki, Japan

The transparent roof face of this project allows a window into the warm wooden structural rafters. The large window also brings light into the typically dark attic space, making a more friendly interior room.

House and Garden by Ryue Nishizawa, Tokyo, Japan

Floor plates and vegetation define the identity of this Tokyo home. The facade, set behind terraces of trees and plantings, brings light and views of the greenery into the home interior.

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