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Photo © Seiya Miyamoto

House of Trough

Jun Igarashi Architects

Kato-gun, Hokkaido, Japan
December 2011

A house in Japan by Jun Igarashi engages in interior theatrics while snubbing its neighbors.

By Ingrid Spencer

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Like an introverted person, the House of Trough, designed by architect Jun Igarashi in the Kato-gun district of the Hokkaido prefecture in northern Japan, focuses inward. This is not surprising considering that dreary neighboring buildings surround the house, with an industrial yard to the south.

But for Igarashi’s clients, a young couple, the neighborhood was just right, since the 2,240-square-foot plot abutted the property of parents. For Igarashi, the situation was also ideal, owing to the couple’s adventurous design tastes and simple programmatic requests.

The clients wanted a large living space where they could relax and entertain, a clutter-free environment with a minimum of furniture, and a bit of hidden storage. These desires, coupled with the bleak surroundings and the region’s freezing temperatures, led Igarashi
to include what he describes as a “windbreak room”—an extension to a house’s entrance that keeps cold air out of its main body. The architect divided the interior into two voids extending across the north and south sides of the 1,060-square-foot structure.

“If you see this type of space as a buffer zone you realize it shares similarities with the traditional Japanese-style engawa, or verandas, meant to physically and mentally connect the interior to the exterior,” says Igarashi. Buffer zones, he adds, also provide a physical distance between the true outside and the central living and dining spaces of the house.

With lookout mezzanines of varying heights accessible by ladders or stairs, these two functional zones receive a constantly changing show of light and shadow from openings strategically placed to minimize unwanted views. To the south, the zone comprises four spaces—the entrance, staircase, master bedroom, and guest bedroom sunk into a partial basement. The north zone accommodates a laundry area, storage, and a study.

Igarashi designed most of the furniture using inexpensive painted plywood, and then installed translucent white organdy curtains that are pulled across the inner edges of peripheral areas to enclose the main living spaces. They can also remain open, permitting family members and guests to view the action in the courtyard “trough” from various perches.

The wood-frame structure includes an 18.5-foot-high pillar which divides the central space. While there’s a playfulness in the way the catwalks are assembled, and a feeling of comfort sitting in the “valley” of the central space looking up to other parts of the house, there’s also a sense of danger.

Couldn’t someone lean a little too far from one of the upper promontories and plummet downward? Perhaps. The architect has strung up thin, almost invisible, wire ropes across the highest platforms as a gesture to safety. But one wonders if the homeowners ever plan to raise a child in this house. Evidently they’ll cross that more-precarious-than-usual bridge later. For now, they enjoy life in their introverted residence that is hardly short on drama.

Architect:
Jun Igarashi Architects
81, Miyamae, Saroma, Tocoro-gun, Hokkaido, Japan
ZIP 093-0501
Tel. 01587-2-3524
Fax. 01587-2-3561
jun-igarashi.web.infoseek.co.jp/

December 2011
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