House in Fukawa by Suppose Design Office
When you are standing in a forest, you can see the trees immediately in front of you, and through the spaces between them you can see the trees just beyond, and then some more beyond that. But, after a certain point your view is completely blocked. The layering of trees gives you the sense that the forest continues on and on, but you can’t tell how far. That makes the forest feel large even though you can see only a small part of it, and regardless of whether it really does continue on for a great distance or ends just beyond the limit of your view. According to architect Makoto Tanijiri of Suppose Design Office, “People experience a space to be much bigger if they cannot figure out the exact size of it.”
With House in Fukawa, Tanijiri applied this theory to a domestic setting. The house was designed for a family of four in a suburb of Hiroshima. From the exterior, House in Fukawa really isn’t much to look at. It isn’t ugly per se, but it is bland, a simple beige block. Only the oversized front door hints at what lies inside.
The interior is a different matter. Plywood boxes are stacked seemingly at random from the ground level up to the roof three-plus stories above. The boxes, which contain the bedrooms, bathroom and closets, branch off from the staircase that spirals up through the center of the small house. From some angles, the whole plywood structure resembles a giant tree, and the bedrooms with their pane-less internal windows are like tree houses. The randomness of the structure and the limited views into and between the boxes makes it difficult to discern just how far it extends. As a result, the house feels larger than its 114.3 m2 (1,230 ft2) of floor space.
The top surfaces of the boxes are put to good use as well. Each of the kids’ bedrooms has a ladder going up to a loft space above, and the “roofs” of two other boxes are used as indoor terraces. These indoor terraces provide semi-private spaces to read or work that are removed from the main living space but still connected to it visually. There is such a marked contrast when moving from the confined spaces of the small bedrooms and the stairwell to the openness of the terraces that it might almost feel like stepping outside, in spite the roof overhead.
The exact strategy used by Suppose Design Office with House in Fukawa would be difficult to apply to other small house designs. However, there are other ways to make a house feel larger by offering limited views of further space. Two small Japanese houses we’ve looked at before employ different techniques. Gate is a two-story house that uses internal windows and walls to layer and frame views through the house, while the Skyward House is a single-story design that offers limited views of adjoining spaces just by the layout of its small floor plan.
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