September 22, 2021

Little House No Context: Tokyo

In the conversations about ensuring buildings have context and also acknowledge the importance of natural light and views for adjacent housing, I have been thinking about this image of a much written about house in Tokyo that was designed by Takuro Yamamoto Architects.


It is a lovely little jewel box from the inside, but also has little context or kindness to surrounding existing development. But in denser cities should this still matter, or is it about whoever builds the last development getting the right to block views and light?


ArchDaily posts this article about this 2015 house   curated by Fernanda Castro describing it as “a lucid example of having large external space in small urban residence with limited site area of Tokyo. Through the process of designing this house, we tried to prove that having rich private external space was important for making crucial difference in the quality of life inside the house, as well as obtaining various possibilities of external activity.”

But take a look-the house creates that “rich private external space” by basically placing a blank wall to its neighbours in the adjacent three storey multi-unit dwelling.

The views from the new house’s rooms not facing the blank walls seem more contextual.


But wait! It’s not about the context, it’s about the interiors.

As Arch Daily writes “As you have already seen, Little House with a Big Terrace creates comfortable internal spaces by connecting them to the unlimited extension of external space. The most effective way to achieve real spaciousness of urban houses in high density residential area is to incorporate unlimited external spaces into design.

Does that need to mean blank walls? You can take a look at more images of the house and its situation in the YouTube video below.


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  1. From what I understand, the Japanese consider houses to depreciate with use, like cars. Hence they are torn down and replaced each time a property sells. The upside is tremendous design innovation, the downsides include material waste and disposal. This helps explain the “no contextuality” philosophy.

  2. There are multiple contexts here. One is the architectural context in which brutal modernist houses are built to express wealth, prestige and artistic sensibility, often without the owner ever living in them. For decades the architectural press has been extolling their virtues and offering up page after page of photos of empty rooms, often with only a single cane-back chair for scale.

    Another context is the cacophony of buildings around these houses, built over time and all numbered according to when they were built. What looks to us as a new house blankly ignoring its neighbour is likely, in that context, to also be the new house that establishes a privacy for the neighbour that they have never had.

    I would be hesitant to read too much of our context into theirs

  3. I would happily move into this space. I would buy shoji screens for the outdoor terrace, a personal thing, but the high ceiling is certainly something to be treasured, the expansive daylighting. I will plant and watch bamboo grow there. One could live privately outside in this house, and that is terrific because that is where we are most relaxed anyway.

    The neighbor? Not unhappy, no serious shading, they are thinking of a bamboo bower and shadows dancing on the wall. Very happy with future living possibilities.

    Context? What’s that, when the spirit of a place always dominates the context, makes the context so to speak.

  4. Whenever I hear people complaining about looking at a blank wall, I think that they’d rather be spying into someone else’s living room.

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