project: Slit house
Architects : Eastern Design Office
Client: NIWAKA, INC.
Site Area: 318 square meters
Building Area: 210 square meters
Total Floor Area: 210 square meters
Structure: Reinforced Concrete
Levels: At ground level
Materials used: Concrete, Glass, Timber, Hemp carpet
To my amazement once some architects graduate from college they forget a fundamental course Sculpture 101. After having seen endless architectural designs I think that the difference between good architecture and plain architecture is the element of sculpturing used in their designs. Others always apply this element in their designs even subconsciously; I think that this is the case with Eastern Design Office, of Anna Nakamura and Taiyo Jinno whose work we’ve seen previously on Yatzer // Slit Court + House with Crest
Slit house is a reinforced concrete house which has been designed with 60 slits that act as the “windows” or rather openings to this magnificent house. Typically, the house has no windows but is perforated by 60 slits which run along a 22 centimeter thick wall which has a total length of 105 meters. The architectural quality and the unique design of this house are derived from its slits. Architects Nakamura and Jinno claim that “no other architecture has ever been realized by such method.” The conceptual sculpturing of the slit design suggests another design method to be used in contemporary architecture besides the glass-heavy one. The use of slits instead of large openings allows for privacy in the densely packed old Japanese city while it prevents the house from indiscreet views and in the meantime it provides the interior with natural light.
The site is located in an old city in Japan, the sites are very scarce and many private residences stand in a row one beside another. The plot which Eastern Design Office had to design a house for is a relatively difficult plot as the dimensions of the site are 50 meters in length and 7.5 meters in width. Each of the two narrow façades respectively overlook a street on the western façade and a river in the eastern façade. A long, four meter tall wall was designed to enclose on purpose this long and narrow site. The slits which have been created parametrically open the enclosure of the reinforced concrete wall. Each slit has a 14 centimeter width that screens the inner privacy from the exterior views.
Someone would question whether this house is lit properly and adequately by natural light and the answer is YES! The slits make the retina of the eye sense the light and create impulses therefore making us more sensitive to light. As seen from the pictures the interior of the house is lit beyond our expectations. During different times of the day the house is lit accordingly and the light projections vary from minute to minute, day to day, and season to season. The light passing through the slits creates a sense of nostalgia in the Japanese spatial arrangement and has an aesthetic quality as that of contemporary art. Eastern Design suggests this architectural design as one method of living in a dense residential area such as this one in Japan where each house stands side by side.
Slit House was designed for an 80 year old woman; the house presents her both a life space with a soft light and an interesting experience of scale unlikely in a house. The light streams which surpass the slits make reference to Fusuma or the Shoji (sliding doors used to separate rooms), in Japanese traditional architecture or a stream of light from skylight of ancient stone architecture. The challenge in designing this house for the old lady was to experiment with an innovative design method in architecture. The concept of composing the architecture based on the slits figures the architecture, while the simple method distinguishes the outline of the entire figure and abstracts the architectural attitude.
The house compromises of a long, slender, and spacious living room. In the middle of the room there is a table that is big enough for ten people where the family and their guests can gather; the light through the slit shines in there. The bedroom and the living room are painted in white, and soft light that enters from the slit multiplies and progresses into the room. In the future, the house can be used as a guesthouse of the company clientele. The room can be used as guest room at a hotel, and if the partition or shoji is removed it can be used as one big, long space. Moreover, if all the partitions are brought down a large space will be created which can be used as a conference hall. If that is the case, then it cannot be thought of as a private house, instead the scale of a space like a Gothic church will appear.
The architecture of Slit House has a “silent ambiance just like in the midst of solitary jar and a poetic clearness as like in an endless spatiality.” The office of Anna Nakamura and Taiyo Jinno are in a continuous quest for various potentials of the slits and their applications in other projects as well. We have to admit that it is a breath-taking house which was clearly designed to suit the needs of the site and the requests of the owners. The ever-changing motion of the sun creates a warm touch on the skin as the dramatic light penetrates through the slits. The light moves, it never stops, night comes, it disappears, but shortly it will reappear in a happy new day the next morning!
The Slit House has its own light age
Dawn // watery light comes into the house through the slits // the room becomes bright faintly
9:30AM // a sequence of delicate light reflects to header of slits appear
10:30AM // sunlight pierces through angled slits at first
11:00AM // the sunlight pierces through all slits
…the transitory time interval lets us feel the running sun and makes us anticipate the forthcoming dusk.
And it shortens little by little.
And watery light fills the house again with soft brightness.
Then the night comes before long.