Decoding Design

In Tokyo, Small House is a beautiful way to live in a dense area

Posting in Cities

In a densely packed Tokyo neighborhood, a Japanese designer has made a beautiful--and liveable house-- using just four square meters of space.

In the tightly packed cities of the world, with long-standing building codes and traditions, it's often difficult to imagine any new structures going up without something being torn down, or without moving to an area with more space.

This is as true here in New York, as it is in Tokyo, a city of over 13 million people, who live 16,000 people per square mile.

Unemori Architects, a Japanese firm run by Hiroyuki Unemori, decided to take on the challenge of building a house in a tiny lot in urban Tokyo, in this case just 34 meters squared. The final product, 4 meters (approx. 13 ft.) on each side, is fittingly called Small House.

Built for a married couple and their child, Unemori designed a space that is entirely liveable. His vision was to "exceed the physical narrowness" of living in the city.

Placed at the center of the site, leaving room to give the structure some light, the building itself is only four by four meters and nine meters high. The inside is very simple, and the four floors are joined together by a spiral stairway.

The windows were placed in a way to best harmonize with the surroundings-- and they look giant compared to the tiny rooms.

Unemori wrote, "every time the window opens or closes, the inside view dramatically changes. Especially, at the second and third floor there is a large hinged door each room, if it is opened, the inside of the room is enveloped in light and wind as if you are outside."

Unemori's design aimed to exceed what he calls the "segmentation" of the structure, to broaden the whole image of the house.  Small House is a beautiful solution to the growing problem of space. The only thing: you have to go all the way upstairs to use the bathroom?

More photos below:

[Contemporist]
Images: Unemori Architects

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Beth Carter

Contributing Editor

Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure