- Designed: 2013
- Type: Residential, competition project, unbuilt
- Location: Hokkaido, Japan
- Design Team: Nasim Razavian, Judith ten Kate
- Third prize of The Third LIXIL International University Architectural Competition
Jury: Kengo Kuma, Tomonari Yashiro, Darko Radovic
Designed for the third LIXIL International University Architectural Competition, the design takes a radical but simple approach to the theme of the competition which was retreat in nature. The house adjusts itself to the harsh seasonal climate of Hokkaido and to the fictional scenario we narrated for it. It approaches the theme of retreat through operationality of architecture and its playful interactions with its environment and inhabitants. The design achieved the third prize.
The house consists of two main elements: a fixed thatched roof and a box.
The thatched roof is situated along an axis to protect the house from the cold winter wind while allowing for maximum sun exposure from south and north. In warm seasons, it provides shadow and natural ventilation from the sides.
The house operates through three simple mechanisms: movement, folding, and wrapping.
In moderate seasonal weather conditions (normally Spring and part of Autumn in Hokkaido) the box moves out of its shelter on rails in order to expand its territory and change its atmosphere. In harsh seasons (Summer and Winter) it moves back under the thatched roof to take shelter from the wind, sun, rain, and snow.
The box has double-layered facades. The inner layer has sliding double-glazed windows that are covered with Washi (Japanese Paper) for shading and privacy. The second wooden layer of the facades fold out with pulley systems and transform to balconies. This mechanism helps with maximizing the floor space, providing natural ventilation, and exposing the inhabitants to the surrounding landscape. These surfaces can fold up for insulation and security.
As Hokkaido is one of the coldest regions in Japan, the insulation properties were extremely important. The intention was to provide this quality with local, cheap, and natural materials. In cold seasons, the two side-facades fold up and the empty space between the thatched roof and the box is filled with straw-bales for extra insulation. In this way, the house is protected against the harsh winters not only through double layering of the façade, but also through the operation of wrapping.
Straw, this simple material, is one of the byproducts of wheat which is harvested on-site. The entire materialization of the house is therefore in response to the changes of its environment always in dialogue with it. The house is constantly in the processes of transformation and reconstruction.
The theme of retreat was approached not only through the performativity of architecture in response to the natural forces but also in response to the fictional living scenario which was narrated for this house. In this scenario, the theme of retreat was approached through the social aspect of human life.
The fictional inhabitants of this house harvest wheat on the site. Wheat is a crop which is common in Hokkaido and is used for making a lot of products such as bread, Japanese noodles, hats, shoes, baskets, and Tatamis. The inhabitants organize craft and food workshops around wheat twice a year and during the harvesting time. The house also responds to these events. During these workshops the box comes out of its shelter and opens up to such social activities.
In this project architecture is considered as a medium which has performative capabilities, a quality which has been overlooked in the discipline. Architecture is not an object to be used but a living organism to play with.