March 1, 2010

Know No Bounds: House and Design Studio by N Maeda Atelier

Suburban sprawl has seeped into the swath of land between Yokohama’s two railway stations, one a busy commuter interchange­ and the other serving bullet trains. When architect Norisada Maeda of N Maeda Atelier was first brought by his client, a graphic designer, to view a plot of land here, it seemed too strange to construct anything on at all. Oddities included a 130-foot setback from the road, an earthen wall built 30 years ago for a terraced rice paddy, and, left over from the same era, a granite staircase that now led nowhere in particular. After further thought, however, Maeda determined to incorporate these disparate elements into his scheme—without cutting down any of the site’s profusion of pine, persimmon, plum, cherry, and orange trees in the process.

Questioning the notion of boundaries, the 1,400-square-foot house and design studio is essentially a double Möbius strip. Continuous surfaces, coated in fiberglass-reinforced plastic, “distribute stresses around the structure, like an egg does, making it strong in winds and earthquakes,” Maeda explains. The kitchen and bathroom melt into the overall seamlessness.

When clients don’t have a clear idea of what they want, he continues, “It’s up to the architect to use kitchens and baths to propose a way of living.” Once this house’s owner has climbed the granite outdoor staircase and walked across a new steel bridge that connects to the second story, he immediately enters the kitchen, where he can store his shoes under the island. Straight ahead, beyond the living-dining area, a clear glass wall incorporates the door to the bathroom—divided, by another glass wall, into a bathing area and a water closet. “If kitchens and bathrooms work well together,” Maeda says, “people live more comfortably.”

Photography by Sergio Pirrone.

PROJECT CHIEF: Ryuji Shiraishi.

Recent Projects