»House before House« in Utsunomiya
This development, known by the name of “House before House”, is located in a residential area of Utsunomiya in Japan. The design is based on the concept that people live not just in indoors, but in the outdoor realm, too. In this experimental scheme, therefore, the architects did not understand the home just as a limited space; they developed their idea along the lines of a village structure, with individual “buildings”, open areas and stairways. Indoors and outdoors, the house and the garden, form a spatial continuum. This interpretation is both timeless and futuristic. It also reflects the Japanese tradition of the dwelling, in which one seeks to attain a harmony between natural and man-made things.
Conceived for two to four people, the house consists of ten cubes that are stacked on top of each other and scattered seemingly at random about a site only 163 m2 in area. This results in open as well as sheltered outdoor spaces. The individual volumes are reached and linked by staircases and ladders. The
area at the point of insection between the most densely grouped white cubes has been developed as a living space, flanked by the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Separate access is provided to the other spaces.
The impression one has of a naturally grown environment is reinforced by the trees planted in compact boxes, in terraced areas that extend in a series of cascading steps, as well
as in cavern-like external spaces between the
boxes and stairs.
The clarity of the built volumes corresponds to their prefabricated form of construction. The outer skin consists of steel sheeting welded to steel framing. Integrated into the housing cubes are planting troughs for the trees. The boxes were placed in position by means of a crane. Internally, the steel walls were sprayed with insulating material and clad with plasterboard. Generous areas of glazing allow the cubes to be opened to the outdoor world.
At these points, the light, finely dimensioned design of the steel staircases rising between the trees allows the occupants to discover the outdoor realm in ever new forms.