Take a peek inside a modern Japanese villa that while uniquely styled, has its foundations anchored firmly in Japanese tradition.
Living space in Japan is a precious commodity, especially for those in the vibrant urban communities of the large cities. However, the land for Villa SSK, while sitting quite close to the centre of Tokyo in terms of geography and distance, is worlds away in terms of space.
When Takeshi Hirobe first inspected the site, he commented on the serenity that is evoked by the natural beauty of the surrounding environment. The calm waters of Tokyo Bay extend into the distance in one direction, while the mountains on the other side are covered in lush greenery. After spending several hours on site, he felt an overwhelming sense of harmony from the disparate natural elements that surrounded him.
“Subtle cues from the surroundings, such as the movements of the sun, the flow of the wind, scent of the tide and stirrings of the plants were accented by the reassuring presence of the rocky mountain,” Takeshi recalls. It was these elements that drove the decision making and design process forward. The building would be constructed to serve as a connection between the mountains and sweeping expanse of the ocean.
Considering the client’s wishes, the design team set to work to create a home which was comfortable, generously proportioned, and which adhered to the design ideology and aesthetic of Takeshi, who of course was the leading architect. The end result is an abode that is individual. Among its neighbours, its unique style and visual aspect make it the focal point in a sea of homogenous buildings. Observing the structure from any angle affords the onlooker a unique take on the home; each aspect is distinctly different from the other and offers a sense of visual and tactile diversity, changing and contorting with every viewing angle.
The design materials exhibit the unique essence of minimalist architecture, which is inherently Japanese. Galvanised steel, glass, wood and ceramic tiles dominate the materiality of the home and although elaborate in shape and spatially diverse, the construction is refined and each element has been built and placed with purpose.
Internally, the exposed beam work, which forms the core foundation and support for the structure, emits a sense of raw natural warmth. The pale timbers act as a counterpoint to the dark external shell of the building and balance the grey tiles throughout the home. Glass walls and large windows face the sea to the front and mountains to the rear, allowing them to be observed from any point within the home. The natural energies of these two dominating environmental features flow through the home and connect with one another.
Takeshi believes light plays a decisive role in defining a structure. Although a building does not move, he believes a sense of the earth and our place on it is extremely important, and light becomes the medium which creates an awareness of movement. As the earth rotates and the sun changes its position in the sky overhead, the interplay between light and internal spaces of the home changes, casting shadows and bringing light into new areas of the home. In order to properly sense light, he believes a balance between light and shadow is necessary. With this in mind, many of the internal finishes have a strong physical presence that express gradients of light and shadow, creating an atmosphere that is individual and a key focal point in all of Takeshi’s work.
Throughout the building phase, focus was not lost on the structure’s role of also providing space for a home. The lower floor houses a generously proportioned living area consisting of dining, lounge and kitchen placed at the rear of the home, with adjacent views of the ocean and surrounding bay. A second-storey loft contains the master bedroom, with a bathroom overlooking the ocean. The bathroom is of particular importance in Japanese homes and becomes a place for contemplation and retreat. The finishes allude to a row of Shinto Torii gates stretching the length of the room, making the ceremony of taking a bath somehow connected with Japan’s spiritual traditions.
Towards the front of the home to one side is a guest area, which is separated from the main structure by a small indoor garden — a Tsubo-Niwa — another traditional element of Japanese houses. Running parallel with the guest rooms is a tiled courtyard, with a step-down area that doubles as a water feature and which, together with the small garden, brings another natural element inside the boundaries of the home.
Finally, a modest garage completes the home and is a space for the client’s beloved car. This is as much a part of the home as the more traditional furnishings, and as such can been seen internally by means of large glass doors.
The structure sits firmly on its foundations and pulls together the mountains and the sea, two aspects of Japan’s geography that resonate throughout the country’s history and mythology. The home’s visual appeal is not lost on its inhabitants and the design team has created a house in which its owners take great pride and comfort. Though strikingly modern in design, the home still retains many traditional Japanese elements, which have created a successful harmony between home, the surrounding environment and those that live within.
“Architecture ought to be rooted in the place it occupies,” remarks Takeshi. “The architectural form of this building somehow emerged during the long process of analysing and studying the location. Although the design process was supposed to have entailed a frantic accumulation of decision-making and choosing between possible options, the finished building gives one the strange, lingering impression of having been constructed according to some predetermined law, natural or divine.”
Modern Japanese Villa style notes:
- Built on the shores of Tokyo Bay, this unique structure takes core elements from Japanese design
- There are two levels, with a loft structure housing the master bedroom and bathroom suite
- An outdoor living courtyard affords views of the sea and mountain
- A modest garage houses the client’s beloved car, which is as much a part of the furnishings as the sofas and chairs
- Materials include galvanised steel, timber, glass and ceramics
For more information hirobe.net
By James Cleland
Photography by Koichi Torimura
From Home Design magazine Vol. 16 No. 3