RESIDENCE TO COMMUNITY: Tezuka Architects’ unique design approach targeted at addressing lifestyle needs has resulted in the creation of unusual projects like the delightful Roof House and the fun-to-be-at Fuji Kindergarten, to name a few
"All architecture is an extension of the house, and at the same time, the house is a miniature of the relationships between all of architecture and society. Regardless of size, our design process hardly changes.
Architecture is a device that triggers the activities of people and society.” These words, extracted from Takaharu + Yui Tezuka’s Architecture Catalogue, a publication of their collaborative works released for the firm’s exhibition held in Tokyo, Japan six years ago continue to resonate with the firm. This unique design approach bent on deriving the bigger architectural picture in meeting the lifestyle needs of its recipients, define the values the practice holds close as architects, making them “the direct concerns” of their work.
“A chair is very similar to architecture.
The selection of shapes is infinite, but it must meet the condition of a person sitting on it,” are further train of thoughts expressed in the catalogue. It is precisely this exquisite quality of finding the right architecture to suit the needs of the occupants of a particular design space – be it a dwelling for a family or a kindergarten for children or a community project that sets the firm apart from other architectural practices as reflected in its unique body of work.
“Easily understood architecture has universality,” maintains Tokyo-born Takaharu Tezuka, 48, who operates from this unique perspective of tailoring designs to meet the exact lifestyle needs and aspirations of each of his clients.
The firm’s aspiration, he adds, is to extract ideas from its inhabitants as they determine the final outcome of the design and how the space can operate to complement their lifestyles.
Operating from this unique architectural perspective, the award-winning practice named Tezuka Architects run by Takaharu and his wife Yui since 1994 thrives on understanding and meeting the lifestyle needs of the family unit that inevitably spill over to include projects for the community and society at large .
The firm continues to undertake residential projects at random – something the couple has done since they returned to Tokyo, Japan from London 18 years ago.
Disclosing the study of his own family unit leading to the discoveries of added uses of space, Tezuka and his wife draw endless sources of inspiration from home life that they infuse into the workings of their projects.
“The secret is my family. We (maintain a) balance between our private and professional (lives) as well. That keeps us special,” shares Tezuka, saying that in addition to the practice undertaking several mainly residential projects in Japan, it is also involved in ongoing projects in Europe.
The Fuji Kindergarten – learning from architecture: Sharing the light bulb moments of inspiration leading to the realisation of his interesting projects, he singled out the Montessori School Fuji Kindergarten located in Tachikawa in Tokyo, Japan as another example of deriving inspiration from family life.
“We have children. They love making circles around objects. We learned the nature of children by observing our own children,” adds Tezuka candidly, describing the inspiration behind the unique concept of the Fuji Kindergarten designed as a village for approximately 500 children.
Comprising a singe large volume of space that is loosely divided by the furniture, the kindergarten has proven to be a unique and fun-filled learning space for the children. Having garnered a lot of publicity and interest, the kindergarten was also designed with 82 feet trees planted inside the building, towering their way through the roof deck and into the sky coupled by the interesting flat roof where the children can play.
“The Roof House is the mother of the kindergarten,” laughs Tezuka. Borne out of the fascination of the married couple who run the Fuji Kindergarten for what they saw accomplished in the Roof House designed by the firm, they engaged Tezuka Architects to design the kindergarten that takes the form of a 656 feet circumference oval-shaped roof space that is a fun and free-roaming space for the children.
“With the ground surface and room interiors (situated) at almost the same level, there is no sense of having to take off your shoes. The distinction between where outside stops and where inside starts doesn’t apply. This kindergarten is an outdoor corridor,” shares Tezuka.
The Roof House’s roofless architecture: Imagine a house on the roof that comes complete with a dining table, benches and chairs, a kitchen plus stove as well as a shower area on its rooftop. There’s certainly no need to imagine the reality of this unfolding on a daily basis for the rooftop-loving Takahashi family who loves being on a higher level, much to the amazement of passersby as they indulge in a meal together, enjoy time out or simply relax at the Roof House with its “1 to 10” pitched roof.
The roof imitates an identical slope akin to the original topography of the area with a low roof edge connected to the garden space facilitating easy handing over of plates of barbecue treats from the garden. The free-flow experience of usable space not only bonds the family with nature and its surroundings but also refreshes the view of the neighbourhood.
Winner of the 2002 Yoshioka Prize for the Yoshioka Foundation and the Japan Institute of Architects’ JIA Prize, the Roof House located in the suburbs of Tokyo in the Hadano district of the Kanagawa Prefecture has attracted attention for its unusual concept of housing the family on the rooftop of the residence.
A natural selection of materials was used for the design of the Roof House in which daily life expands onto the roof naturally.
Sharing the living spaces between the ground floor and the entire roof, the Roof House offers a generous space for the family and yet maintains a simple plan utilising a lightweight yet “earthquake responsive structure”. The thin roof, timber columns and structural plywood panels allow for a “flexible, partitioned space” which promotes a visual link throughout the house, overlooking the adjacent valley and Mt. Kobo in the distance.
Enchantment is in the air as each occupant presides over his or her own skylight that accompanies every room.
For instance, the skylight above the children’s bedroom belongs to the younger sister whereas the skylight in the study room belongs to the elder sister. Likewise, the father lays claim to the skylight in the bedroom while the mother’s skylight is above the kitchen where the cooking takes place.
The family’s skylight is above the dining room. There is also a skylight that makes magical moments possible, offering a vista of the night sky dotted with stars to be glimpsed from the bathroom.
Lanterns attached to the skylights add allure to each skylight while naked light bulbs strategically hung below the roof dispense their duty be it to shed light on the table or living space where the family gathers.
“Climbing up the ladders that can be leaned on the ledges of each skylight, the living space extends onto the rooftop and merges with the outside (space) with a freestanding wall to break the wind and provide privacy,” observes Tezuka of this project undertaken by his firm in collaboration with Masahiro Ikeda.
Upon reflection, Tezuka believes that it was the declaration by the head of the house that the family “likes to climb onto the roof” that led to the realisation of their dream house. Eating rice balls on the Roof House is certainly an appealing proposition whetting the family’s appetite for good food and great design high up on the roof. “When going up onto the roof to eat, the food is delicious.” Indeed.
According to Tezuka, in the summer, the family ascends to the rooftop to savour the cool mornings and evenings.
Winter time sees the family ascending when the deck gets warm during the afternoon. A client’s brief has inevitably turned out to be a happy extension of family life. In essence, in the words of the family, the Roof House whose view stretches out to generously embrace a green valley is “a house without excess or deficiency.”
Woods of Net: Representing a collaborative project undertaken by Tezuka Architects and TIS & Partners with Norihide Imagawa specifying the structural design, the Woods of Net project in Japan that was completed in May 2009 for the Hakone Open-Air Museum is a permanent pavilion for a net artist, Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam. The structure, entirely composed of douglas fir timber without any metal parts, draws hordes of attention by virtue of its unusual configuration coupled with the internal structure that showcases a net hand-knitted entirely by the artist.
A children’s playgound-come-true, they can roll around, crawl about and jump on the net.
“We wanted to design a space as soft as the forest where the boundary between the outside and inside disappears.
The space attracts people, with the children playing inside the net while parents sit around the wooden structure,” says Tezuka about this creative masterpiece of a structure showcasing artwork.
11,300 cubic feet of timber make up the structure that was first designed on a computer. Interestingly, there is nothing similar among all the 589 members.
Cutting-edge structural analysis saw the data being loaded into a CNC milling machine that is able to carve out shapes down to the military precision detail of 0.1 millimeters. Thereafter, the carpenters completed the pieces. Later lifted by a crane, the pieces were then joined utilising the very same techniques carpenters in Japan used some four hundred years ago.
Professor Imagawa who is a structural engineer developed a cutting-edge structural analysis programme specifically for a pavilion. The programme not only analysed this new “bending joint system” that can overcome the variable characteristics of timber but also proved that the traditional technique resulting in the creation of Woods of Net was structurally sound with the joint details of the parts connected solely by dowel pins and wedges.
Quick takes with Takaharu Tezuka of Tezuka Architects
Having graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from the Musashi Institute of Technology and a Masters of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, United States, Takaharu Tezuka went to work for the Richard Rogers Partnership in London in 1990. Four years later, both he and his wife Yui established Tezuka Architects in Tokyo, Japan. Since the formation of the firm, the studio has amassed various prize winning projects across Japan. The recent years saw it being awarded amongst others, The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Kids Design Gold Prize (2007) and the Architectural Institute of Japan Prize (2008). Tezuka is also a visiting lecturer in Japan and overseas.
You mentioned that your office’s philosophy of working concentrates on spatial designs that are skillfully integrated with the outside environment. What creative approaches do you employ to bring about the reality of the designs by way of materials, design concept and direction?
It is not about physical existence but understanding lifestyle. We are not interested in just cutting a nice view, but extending life from the inside to outside or from outside to inside. The use of materials is diverse. Even steel can be a good material that complements architecture with an intimate relationship between the inside and outside spaces. We go skiing and cycling with the young members of our office. We have discussions over BBQ.
Do you see an emerging demand for your type of architectural work in the projects you undertake for private residences and community buildings?
We are getting more projects addressing serious sociological problems; children suffering from cancer and the rebuilding of educational facilities hit by tsunami. We are building a kindergarten using 350-year-old trees destroyed by tsunami.
What do you think is the single most important characteristic that makes a top architect?
Architects with long term vision of more than 50 years.
What is the most significant project your firm has done? Why? Where do you get your architectural inspiration from?
The Roof House is the most important project, although it is the smallest and cheapest. We get our inspiration from meeting clients and from daily life.
Following the success of the Roof House, will you be doing another project similar to this? We will do another project if it is necessary.
You mentioned that for your Woods of Net project, 11,300 cubic feet of timber members were used and there is “nothing the same among all the 589 members” for the design concept. Can you elaborate on why you chose to use these materials measured into these size dimensions?
There are three reasons. First of all, we could only design a wooden building recognised as an art object in the National Forest. Secondly, we wanted the structure, standing more than a few hundred years, melding (with) nature.
Thirdly, it is very important to make sure that every cubic inch is given the same amount of bending and shear force. The structure looks random but is reflective of very rational geometry. There is no margin of arbitrary choice.
Upon your graduation, you joined Richard Rogers Partnership. What is the difference between working there as compared to having your own practice?
I learned a lot from Sir Richard Rogers. I didn’t learn only hi-tech details but also about lifestyle. I remember the times we had afternoon tea with the team members on the balcony overlooking the Thames River.
Pics taken by Katsuhisa Kida/FOTOTECA & courtesy of Tezuka Architects.
Takaharu Tezuka of Tezuka Architects will be speaking at Datum KL: 2012 that will run today and tomorrow at the Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.