Moriyama House (2005) by Ryue Nishizawa is essentially a collection of separate volumes that make up a ‘house’. Each volume accommodates different needs and function independent from each other. Like many contemporary Japanese houses, the white boxes are a stark contrast to the surrounding wooden structure in the neighbourhood. However as you approach it and walk past this corner site, it does not feel intruding at all. I think it must be the modest scale, and how the volume is split up into smaller volumes rather than one large one. The individual volumes create a series of individual gardens between them, opening up the building to the surroundings.
Terunobu Fujimori compares the size of the residence to that of a Japanese tea house, with one of the floor area of the three-story structure comparable to a 4.5 tatami mat configuration of a typical tea house. The separate structures vary in size according to their function. There are ten separate buildings in total – six are rented out and four form a single residence occupied by the owner. The four units used by the owner include a bedroom, living, dining, bath and an enclosed verandah. The bath and verandah are separate structures, meaning you will experience a nice stroll outside every time you want to use the bath. The three-story structure mentioned before functions as a separate entity itself with a bath and toilet in the basement, living, dining and kitchen on the first floor, and a bedroom on the second. Therefore all the fundamental spatial units of the traditional Japanese home (and any home really) are stacked on top of each other.
Nishizawa explains that there were seven main architectural elements dealt with:
1) dismantling, 2) acentricity, 3) smallness, 4) the creation of an environment, 5) transparency, 6) multiple tenancy/density, and 7) the absence of borders.
I think the idea of separating the volumes is effective and practical in a sense that each can function alone/can be rented out etc. It also results in this ‘field’, an in-between space of various pathways and pockets of tiny gardens providing usable outdoor space, including some which are right off the streets. Though when I visited it seemed like there was no one living there..and if they were they were pretty private with the blinds drawn on the lower floors. Perhaps the owners are used to strangers wandering around their house and signs have been put up telling people to be quiet and not to enter the property. Oh the price one has to pay to live in a famous house!