Own house in Nara
奈良青山の自邸 斜面地 平屋 ロケーション 半屋外居間
My house was constructed on a slope, using minimum foundations and trying not to cut through the mountain nor cutting down the trees. The house looks like a villa, although it is located in a Traditional Japanese Residential Area.
The house was not built in a pit dwelling way (which uses a lot of concrete) but as a stilt type (using only stilt pipes). Thanks to this, the house has low humidity, good airflow, and does not store heat. Different from concrete foundations which create a heat island, the stilt type house provides an open space for air to flow through, making it difficult for mold to appear, and offering a perfect cooling system. Thanks to this I do not require an air conditioner.
In Japanese constructions, it is more important to think about summer conditions than winter conditions, because of the heat and some dangers during the rainy season, like storms and typhoons. Thinking about this, the surrounding trees play a very important part: providing natural cooling and sufficient shade from the sun, allowing privacy from neighbors, and offering protection from heavy rains and possible typhoons. Specifically talking about their cooling feature, the tree`s leaves offer a very interesting quality: they generate water vapor, which creates natural cooling thanks to the wind that cools this vaporization heat and brings it in and out of the house. During the HEIAN period, this stilt type of construction, or TAKAYUKA, had a primitive design that offered natural cooling. This concept is also used in my house, where there is a middle open living room that allows for the wind to flow around the house. You could say my house has an open design.
In my house, the use of natural soil is also very important. Recently, roads are covered with asphalt, which creates two problems: Floods and Heat islands, especially during the rainy season. As a measure against weeds and mud, people use concrete to cover the spaces around their houses. The concrete stores solar heat during the day and it dissipates after sunset, making it very hot at night. In the case of soil, it does not store heat from the sun, rather it absorbs rainwater and decomposes fallen leaves. Thanks to the site of this house, which is mostly surrounded by soil at the bottom (Like a table pierced into the ground), the temperature in the house drops in the evening, making summer nights comfortably cool. This concept is very similar to an old Japanese custom called UCHIMIZU, in which Japanese people sprinkle water around the house to take away the stored heat through evaporation and lowering the temperature.
Nowadays, there is an image of comfort being the ability to control the temperature at will using air conditioners and closed spaces that protect from rain and wind. The value standard of a house is aimed at high performance eco-house. It is ideally highly insulated and airtight, with solar panels and completely controlled by air conditioning. Closed spaces to survive the rain and wind are natural, but in my house, I prefer to use old Japanese wisdom, which is the opposite: openness, access to nature, soil, trees, wind, water, and sun. This gives people different experiences that involve nature and their senses: for children this experience is more of an interaction with natural and enjoyable spaces; while for adults, it offers a feeling of remembrance, a sensation of healing. In a Holistic approach, not only is the interaction with nature a healing experience but it can also be accentuated by appealing to four specific senses: Sight, Smell, hearing, and touch. For sight, in addition to healing with the green leaves, I try using traditional objects like the Noren (a designed cloth that moves with the wind when hung over a door). For smell, I experience a sense of remembrance when I smell incense like those used in temples or in houses: the traditional Katorisenko (A mosquito coil that has a spiral shape). For Hearing, Furin wind chimes, or the wind that makes leaves sound. For Touch, my house offers three different experiences depending on materials that help improve our experience. The first is the Cedar wood Floor, which is known for being softwood and very comfortable to the touch. The second is the tatami floors, which have a defined pattern that creates a texture without humidity, a type of dry comfort. The third is the cement boards. It may surprise you to consider this industrial material, but this material has a special function. Cement boards are cool and produce thermal conductivity that can absorb the heat from our feet in summer. In my vision of the sense of touch, people are used to using their hands, the reason for which I thought of a new approach, where people can experience this sense through their feet. Especially in summer, this experience can be fully enjoyed by the comfort of our bare feet. All these elements create a healing sensation for any person who enters my house.
A medical approach has a symptomatic treatment: it is immediate but it has side effects (closed from nature). A holistic approach takes longer but is more effective without the dangers of side effects (close to nature). For example: instead and take advantage of natural ventilation. This is cheaper and is better for our minds and bodies.
I would therefore consider that my architectural philosophy is different from a symptomatic treatment: I do not choose materials like medicine, to improve comfort or desires (ex: high insulation, airtight windows, expensive furniture or air conditioning); I use materials that have a holistic purpose: to improve strength and healing with the interaction of spaces, light, materials, and views (ex: Health, healing, physical strength and peace of mind). We cannot find this in cities nowadays, so my purpose is to try to bring this concept into housing and promote a more sustainable and natural way of living.