A House Awaiting Death by EASTERN Design Office

published in: Architecture By Marcia Argyriades, 09 September 2010

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photo (c) Koichi Torimura

Architects:  Anna Nakamura, Taiyo Jinno // EASTERN Design Office
Project:  Residential
Location: Japan
Date Completed:  February 2010
Site Area: 440 square meters
Total Floor Area: 73 square meters

photo (c) Koichi Torimura

A House Awaiting Death is a unique residence with an architectural concept; not a happy one, but one taken out of life, a reality _ death.  One can never be sure about anything in this life, but one thing is for sure, that one day we will all die.  It is a fact, not a happy one, a rather sad and heartbreaking for the loved ones left behind.  When we are young, we are all powerful and feel as if we have “Highlander” capabilities where nothing fears us; as we grow older the thought keeps twirling in our minds.  We ponder upon the good and bad memories and expect to live the last years of our lives the way we imagined it!  This is the case with this elderly loner, who expects his death within the next fifteen years.  “I will die in 15 years.  It will be a house awaiting that death.  The building is fine as long as it lasts 15 years.  Something small would be goodthe client said to EASTERN Design Office.  

photo (c) Koichi Torimura

photo (c) Koichi Torimura

The plot of land had already been selected by the principal; a plot on a beach beyond sublime Suzuka mountain range, yonder past the ravines of the Ise Penninsula.  It is a plot of land on a peninsula facing east; where the sun rises.   It is noteworthy to remind you that the sun rises on the east and does not set; a symbolic direction as the principal dislikes sunsets for their symbolic meaning _ that things have come to an end.  The sunrise symbolizes continuation, eternity, new birth, and perhaps to some who believe in this reincarnation.   

When I die it won’t face the sunset, but the sunrise.  When the final moment comes, I will face the sea and depart on a ship flashing towards death.  It’ll be a time revealed after death.the client said.

photo (c) Koichi Torimura

EASTERN Design Office had to adhere to these statements, as architectural design is not what the architect wants to design, but a mixture of the clients’ needs and wants along with an appropriate program but to also meet the aesthetic requirements of the client and the architect.   After hours of brainstorming of how to go about on this project, EASTERN found a symbolic insect which is no other than the butterfly.  In the East a butterfly is believed to take the spirit of the dead and transform into one; this is their cultural translation of eternity and reincarnation.


photo (c) Koichi Torimura

The symbolisms have been brought into the architecture by large polygonal windows which have been designed accordingly to the shapes on the butterfly’s forewings.  The eastern sunlight streams through the polygonal windows which have been placed in a wave like motion. The architects wanted to capture the movement of the waves, as this building is “not just a building with an ocean-view, but a place to observe the ever changing waves.”  The form of the windows changes to correspond with the people in sitting, reclining, and standing positions.  The overlapping windows, the accumulation of natural light and the creation of shadows create a hymn as the entire building erupts with natural sunlight in the morning. 

Image Courtesy of EASTERN DESIGN office

Image Courtesy of EASTERN DESIGN office

photo (c) Koichi Torimura

The architects intendedly raised the main living area as they wanted to create an interior which would interweave with the waves and the sea.  They would not be satisfied if they designed just another house with a sea view just because the shore is a mere 150 meters away.  It was of vital importance that the sea be incorporated into the open space of the house; the open plan floor plan has been arranged in such a way in order to incorporate the views of the waves and the sea uninterrupted. 

photo (c) Koichi Torimura

photo (c) Koichi Torimura

photo (c) Koichi Torimura

Furthermore, anchors have been hoisted on the wall, a “two-pronged anchor is suspended from the wall and a four-pronged anchor is fixed to the top of a type of narrow bearm.  They are the symbols of a man who has lived a life of relentless rage.”  The architects of EASTERN Design Office sometimes still question themselves why this client asked for such a project with this request “A House Awaiting Death.”  Is it the death of his friend or is it his underlying nature that had rooted this idea of death and the house?  The fact is that they had a request and they had to comply with the clients orders. Throughout the process the architects found the form; the two shapes which become one form.  In the form, everything changes like undulating waves; this is the message that their architecture conveys. …And they still wonder “are we insane, or is the client mad? Is this reality?  Is it a dream?”

photo (c) Koichi Torimura

In a dream Sou-Shu somehow became a butterfly. He was too content to be a butterfly floating in a comfort manner forgetting that he was Sou-Shu.  Before long he awoke up himself and he knows that he is without doubt Soushu.  Well, what is this?  Did Sou-Shu become a butterfly, or a butterfly become Sou-Shu in his dream?  There must be a distinction.  This must be a materialization (all everything is in a state of flux.)”  Chinese Philosopher Zhuangzi.

Image Courtesy of EASTERN DESIGN office

Image Courtesy of EASTERN DESIGN office

sources:

EASTERN Design Office

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EASTERN Design Office

About EASTERN Design Office

EASTERN Design Office of Anna Nakamura and Taiyo Jinno is a collaborative architectural and design firm in Kyoto, Japan.   The firm was founded in 2003, and ever since they have received various prizes in International competitions.  Their projects range but are not limited to urban planning, commercial and residential architectural design.    The architects of EASTERN possess a remarkable sense of scale.   “Their architectural designs develop a high level of freedom in them on the basis of thorough understanding of this principle.  The architects of EASTERN artfully enjoy the plastic freedom that comes with the scale of residential buildings. It is not that they simply discard unnecessary structure, but rather, on the many disadvantageous sites often seen in Japanese cities, they assert the existence of architecture by first establishing the external reinforced concrete wall.  They then draw what may be observed as random free curves on the wall surface.  If you design the space between a pair of adjacent curves as negative, you obtain an aperture, but if you consider it as positive, it becomes a solid component member.  The two architects of EASTERN will utilize their extraordinary plastic sensibility grounded in Japanese tradition to construct an original and distinguished world of architecture while maintaining their certain sense of scale.”

[official website]
  • friend
    popi | 2010-09-10 11:00:24

    it has such an atmosphere... I really makes you feel like, all you want to do, is lying still in the middle of the room and hear the sound of silence.

  • friend
    Sanjeev Sabharwal | 2011-02-03 15:16:56

    This is an amazingly distilled work of pure, elegant simplicity. Especially considering the somewhat morbid context. The architects have effectively deconstructed Death and distilled it into this Being with eternal Spirit (as defined by Kahn). This home should be passed on to subsequent occupants whose outlook on death is the same. The Spirit will gain, layer by layer, meaning upon meaning...

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