3 Japanese house concepts to borrow in design

3 Japanese house concepts to borrow in design

Recent months we have experienced every inch of the house, which has been transformed into an office, bar, cinema, gym, etc. discovering new potentials for our homes, but does this potential need to be translated into design as well?

Will our apartments and houses change to adapt to the new realities that threaten us? Are our current homes capable of providing the proper physical and psychological comfort to cope with staying inside during the lockdown? And most importantly, will the way we design our homes in a post-pandemic world change?

“While disaster might be imminent, chaos unchains creativity.”

Traditional Japanese Architecture - Book

We, as human beings, have always known how to adapt and along with us adapt our everyday environments too. I believe that many people have encountered problems working from home. A real work space is always a secondary choice, it is an extension in the living room or bedroom, making it difficult to concentrate, especially if there are children around.

Also in Mediterranean culture, life takes place mainly “on the street”, and even office work is often moved to cafes, so naturally the home office was not previously considered an option, but the pandemic caused by Covid-19 highlighted new opportunities about how to use our home.

Man has survived for thousands of years, despite climate change, catastrophe, or pandemics, precisely because of his ability to adapt to flexibility. The same flexibility is needed in our work and living environments. In fact, at such times, when disaster might be imminent, chaos unchains creativity [1] and in this situation, the creativity of adapting to new balances turns into necessity.

Time experienced in quarantine has highlighted the rigidity of the spaces we live in and the inability of some people to use their premises at the same time for different purposes, so we are presenting you with three essential changes that we consider a necessity:

Konufaki House - ALTS Design Office; Photography - Yuta Yamada; Fujishokai
  1. Spatial flow and flexibility

Naturally our attention turns to modular and flexible homes, to the concept of Japanese homes, with a philosophy based on the fact that one must learn to coexist with the dangers that threaten them, and speaking of Japan, specifically about phenomena such as : earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.

One of the main features of Japanese homes is flexibility or freedom. As pointed out by architect Antonin Raymond, who came to Japan to work with Frank Lloyd Wright, “The Japanese house is surprisingly free. At night and in the winter, one can shut out the world and the interior becomes a box divided up into rooms. Then in the summer, one opens up all the storm doors, the sliding screens and sliding doors and the house becomes as free as a tent through which air gently passes.” [2]

Modularity provides the proper freedom required for modifications, dismantling, merging or interlining the spaces with each other, as in a lego game, in the function of needs. In a modular tatami space (Japanese mat based on the human unit), a room is transformed into a dining room, living room or bedroom creating a fluid space, which is easily modified by the movements of the sliding panels/doors, thus eleminating the boundaries between spaces.

It is certain that people today value their home more than ever before, and the goal will be to create more functional and fluid spaces based on their necessities. [3]

How many of us have the freedom to transform their dining room so easily? Should we change our perception of partition walls, transforming them from solid and massive elements into light and movable elements, which easily allow the delineation of new spaces in accordance with the requirements of contemporary man?

Traditional Japanese Architecture - Book

2. Minimalism as a new way of life

The fact that we are part of a consumer culture, the message we constantly receive is the need to buy, which translates into homes overcrowded with objects, products that we use very rarely or not at all and often they become a source of stress. A significant step we can make to adapt easily to the environment would be to embrace a minimalist approach to life and furnishing of our homes, inspired by the culture of Japanese homes:

“Since the rooms contain small pieces of furniture that would dictate a specific use, such as the bedroom or dining room, they are usually developed as flexible spaces with many purposes rather than for a single activity. The lack of large furniture reinforces the continuous functional flexibility, which is a very important feature of traditional Japanese buildings, especially houses. ”[4]

Kusatsu House - ALTS Design Office; Photography - Yuta Yamada

Not only the Japanese culture, but a life with more meaning and less “things” is the origin of the Minimalist movement, https://www.theminimalists.com/about/

Practically, it lives in the mindset of Mies Van de Rohe’s famous saying, Less is More, but translated not only in the decorations of the buildings, but also in the daily choices, eliminating the “ornaments” to glorify the essence, focusing on experiences that help in personal, professional and human development and not in the material world.

Traditional Japanese Architecture - Book

3. A nature-friendly house

With the restriction to go out, the need to bring nature into our homes became more significant, making people more creative and interested in having a piece of nature as a permanent element in their homes. The remnants of a design-imposed dogma continue to modify the spaces of our homes, and the need for freedom and space results in the closure of our balconies with windows, the utilization of which is totally sporadic. With the risk of a possible lockdown, the presence and functionality of these spaces is a vital necessity.

Precisely, these intermediate spaces should enable them to be almost closer to nature, not only aesthetically but also functionally, encouraging the creation of mini gardens to cultivate a new hobby or agriculture products.

The interest in bringing nature into the environments where we live is growing, which should be reflected not only in the design of spaces, but also in the use of local materials, such as stone or wood, to integrate the natural environment with architecture. Precisely it is inspired by the balanced symbiosis between nature and the architecture we encounter in the Japanese home. Of course these are some points of reflection on a model that has inspired modern architecture, as Bruno Taut found during his visit to Japan in 1933, “Japanese architecture has always been modern.” The Bauhaus mantras of “form follows function” and “less is more” as well as the “modern” ideas of modular grids, prefabrication and standardization had long been part of Japanese building traditions.

Of course, we have many examples in our traditional architecture with an approach to nature from which we can start to recreate the new spaces of contemporary man. Will we be able to create a positive turn in coping with the demands of a new lifestyle?

St.tropez Houses - John Pawson

[1] https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/reviews/exhibitions/designing-for-the-moment-on-70-years-of-japanese-house-architecture/10021328.article

[2] Excerpt from: Geeta Mehta. “Traditional Japanese Architecture”

[3] https://www.dwell.com/article/architects-say-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-will-change-home-design-ee29c873

[4] Excerpt from: Mira Locher. “Traditional Japanese Architecture”

[5] Excerpt from: Geeta Mehta. “Traditional Japanese Architecture”

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