Hot House by Sou Fujimoto

Click to enlarge
House NA by Sou Fujimoto Architects.sou-fujimoto.net

House NA by Sou Fujimoto Architects.sou-fujimoto.net

There’s a moment in the film 1941 when the invading Japanese are making off with a radiogram that they can’t fit into the turret of their submarine and one of them says: “We must find a way to make these things smaller”. Because that’s what they do – make things smaller. For the Japanese, the house is no exception. Notorious for making entire houses in tiny spaces where we in the West wouldn’t dare hold a conversation let alone lie down to sleep, the Japanese have mastered the art of ‘less is more’.

The NA House by Sou Fujimoto Architects, in a quiet neighbourhood in Tokyo, at 85m2 (on a 50m2 site) is small but not unusually tiny. What are tiny are the 21 individual floor plates at various heights that make up the house. What is unusual is the house’s transparency. The house is a playground of white structure and glass: small interconnecting platforms that unite to form a kind of tree house – if trees grew in such a rectilinear, modular fashion. The clients expressed a desire to “live as nomads within their own home”. The floating platforms create a sense of placelessness that delivers the nomadic but with it, perhaps, a restlessness, a frustration of never being located – a decidedly unhomely home.

The platforms range in size from 2.0 to 7.5m2 connected by short stairs, ladders and moveable steps – branches in effect. There is something oddly unnatural about this natural metaphor, which is hard to pin down. Perhaps it is the constraining act of regulating the tree into orthogonal modules, or the nervous exposure that such an expanse of glass encourages. Or maybe what is unnatural is the imposition of a Western sensibility on a Japanese architecture. What would I know? I’ve never lived in Japan. Or a tree. 

Take a closer look at House NA in this short clip:


More spaces

The elegant oasis

The elegant oasis

A neighbourhood is being reborn in the heart of Auckland’s city fringe. Currently in its second stage of development, SKHY is located on the corner of Symonds Street and Khyber Pass (hence its name) on an elevated site that is within walking distance of all the main centres.
Theatre of small intimacies

Theatre of small intimacies

An apartment for a creative couple – an opera director and a film director – offers up drama and grand gestures mixed with subtle and delicate moments.
Mad about Madrid

Mad about Madrid

This sophisticated, nine-storey inn was designed by Jaime Hayon as a contemporary take on classic Spanish motifs.
The legend of El Dorado

The legend of El Dorado

The home of Puerto Rico’s leading luxury residential developer is a fitting gem on the Caribbean coast.
Modernist horizon

Modernist horizon

This holiday home in the Hawke’s Bay is equal parts relaxation, art gallery, viewing platform and a subtle homage to Palm Springs.
Colour me tender

Colour me tender

Borrowing from Moorish motifs, Brazilian vernacular, contemporary art and a playful melding of colour and forms, this home is never, ever dull.

Most read

Theatre of small intimacies

Theatre of small intimacies

An apartment for a creative couple – an opera director and a film director – offers up drama and grand gestures mixed with subtle and delicate moments.
The elegant oasis

The elegant oasis

A neighbourhood is being reborn in the heart of Auckland’s city fringe. Currently in its second stage of development, SKHY is located on the corner of Symonds Street and Khyber Pass (hence its name) on an elevated site that is within walking distance of all the main centres.
Win a Kyoto outdoor bean bag

Win a Kyoto outdoor bean bag

It’s time to make the most of the last sunny days and balmy nights. Enter to win a designer Kyoto outdoor bean bag crafted by luxury furniture brand, Lujo.
Mad about Madrid

Mad about Madrid

This sophisticated, nine-storey inn was designed by Jaime Hayon as a contemporary take on classic Spanish motifs.
Designer profile: Francis Sultana

Designer profile: Francis Sultana

Camille Khouri talked to renowned interior and furniture designer Francis Sultana about his life as a designer and his beautifully furnished apartment (featured in the current issue of Urbis).
Modernist horizon

Modernist horizon

This holiday home in the Hawke’s Bay is equal parts relaxation, art gallery, viewing platform and a subtle homage to Palm Springs.
Issue 97 out now!

Issue 97 out now!

The April/May issue of Urbis is out now and is filled with food for thought on urban living and how to make high-density work in our favour.