kiyoaki takeda architects has built a timber house with five retaining walls that merge nature with artefact by allowing the property to coexist harmoniously with the hilly terrain and earth of its site. located in the residential setagaya ward of tokyo, the project is surrounded by neighbouring properties built on top of levelled land, formed by enormous concrete walls to accommodate the uneven terrain. contrary, the design of this house focuses on enveloping its residents within the earth and encourages a deeper connection with the natural environment despite the site’s urban surroundings.all images © masaki hamada (kkpo)
‘I want to bring back the tactile sensation of living in a “place”,’ notes kiyoaki takeda.‘it cannot be achieved by just applying soil to the floor. I believe that this sensation can be accomplished only when we, as human beings, are supported and enveloped by the structure of the earth, emerged from the contrast between nature and artefact. for this house, I aimed for an architecture that is filled with the life force rooting the earth itself.’ built for a family of young couples and their four children, the newly built house takes advantage of the uneven terrain of the plot, characterized by a rough slope with a height difference of 3.5 meters.
several small areas have been dug out to make the most of the terrain’s nature, while various retaining walls were designed to accommodate the height differences that occurred from the digs. ‘five small retaining walls’ that merge nature and artefact appeared on site, each shaped differently. yet, all follow flat structure reinforced by L or T shaped ribs and support the earth load with its thickness, which is set as thin as possible.
‘the thinness of the wall was an attempt to acknowledge the retaining wall – construction material – as an essential part of human living space, and implement this wall in the interior of the house even with its geothermal feature,’ the tokyo-based architect. ‘as a vestige of the earth and architecture’s struggle for their coexistence, this complex border appeared between them should be able to offer vibrant moments in life at this living space.’
the architecture extends on top of this structure, tracing the earth shape of the foundation and retaining walls, and constructed with two layers, combining reinforced concrete and timber. the reinforced structure, which is located at the lower part of the building, is basically the underfloor space but turned into an interior. by incorporating it into the living area that is set within the timber structure, the interior encloses one large atrium that accommodates various skip floors with different environments. the timber structure provides an open frame that exposes the beams in the atrium, offering an option to increase the floor space in the future. ‘residents would first feel the differences in each space, and then they can explore their own way to manipulate and design their own life within this environment,’ adds kiyoaki takeda.
name: house with five retaining walls (house in setagaya)
architect: kiyoaki takeda architects
location: setagaya ward, tokyo, japan
text translation: mami sayo