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Second Plate

Fukuoka, Japan
Hiroyuki Arima + Urban Fourth

For an architectural photographer, Urban Fourth designs second plate, a house and studio with folded sheet metal evoking crisp, white origami

By Naomi Pollock
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  Second Plate
Click image for slideshow;
Photo © Kouiji Okamoto / Technistaff
  Urban Fourth
  Hiroyuki Arima, Principal
  Click here to see the people & products

An architect who thinks a lot like a photographer and a photographer who thinks a lot about architecture joined forces to produce Second Plate. Hiroyuki Arima and his firm, Urban Fourth, designed this house and studio for Kouji Okamoto, the preferred cameraman of many Japanese architects. While Okamoto’s chosen career requires close observation of built form, Arima’s design sensibilities reveal an unusual attunement to two-dimensional views from in and outside of his buildings. The result of this rare architect-client alliance, Second Plate’s elegant composition of abstract white boxes, wafer-thin planes, and taut lines prompts strong 2D readings that offer a perfect foil for the lives of its occupants—and for the camera.

This project represents a big step up from the contractor-produced home the client had previously owned. Divided into public and private zones, Arima’s design consists of two independent steel-frame structures—a 581-square-foot front building, containing a guest suite on the ground floor and the photographer’s office above, and the 1,216-square-foot back building, or residence. Clad in cement panels painted white, the two volumes flank a triangular cypress deck and reflecting pool. This scheme preserves the autonomy of the program’s two main parts, allowing office staff and visiting adult children to come and go freely. The arrangement also gives the clients the option of renting out the front building should their needs change in the future. Separate stairways connect the parking area to the two volumes: A spiral leads up to the front building, overlooking the street, and a straight run ascends to the house, with its entry foyer and double-height living space opening onto dining and kitchen areas. From this level, cantilevered treads of steel lead to the clients’ second-floor bedrooms, which jut out above the terrace.

Comprising simple two-story boxes, the project contains no real rooms, only functional areas with borders ambiguously defined by glass screens, ceiling-height variations, or level changes, rather than literal doors and partition walls. Though the ceiling soars to 16 feet in the main living zone, it hovers intimately over the adjacent dining and kitchen areas.

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