A modern Japanese courtyard house | Mitsutomo Matsunami
The Kishigawa Residence is a small house located in a rural area of scattered houses set among rice fields. It was built for a sushi chef whose hobby is cars. Those interests led the client to request two specific features for architect Mitsutomo Matsunami to include in the design. The first was for a view of his cars from inside the house. The second was for an “irori”, a traditional Japanese fire pit that can be used for cooking. The house has a very modern external appearance with shed-roofed forms, a living roof on the garage, and an exterior wall that leans outward on one side. However the layout and interior incorporate many elements of traditional Japanese architecture, including the irori.
The 49.6 m2 (534 ft2) house has a U-shaped floor plan arranged around a small courtyard, with the garage sitting on the fourth side. There is no wall on the courtyard side of the garage, allowing for the requested views from the house through the courtyard and into the garage. The courtyard serves as the entry point to the small home. A path leads visitors from the street along a narrow passage between the garage and the house to the courtyard. From there, sliding glass doors provide access to the interior. The large glass doors can completely open the living area to the courtyard.
The house follows the traditional division of the space into a service area called the doma and several rooms with wooden floors raised a foot or two above the doma. In traditional Japanese homes, the doma would have a floor of compacted earth and would be used for cooking and other service functions. Here the doma has a concrete floor but it still includes the kitchen, bath and storage spaces as well as the entryway and the circulation corridors. The rooms with raised wood floors are the living room, the bedroom, and a “Japanese-style” room that could be used for entertaining or as a guest bedroom. The bedroom has actually been raised by several steps, making room for storage beneath the floor.
The raised living room floor accommodates the irori, a square fire pit sunk into the floor. A cover that matches the oak flooring conceals the irori when it is not in use. The living room, bedroom and bathroom all have window walls overlooking the rice fields. The window wall in the living room slides completely open. Opening both the courtyard doors and living room window wall provides good cross-ventilation for the irori, which has no chimney.
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