This Futuristic Japanese Building Is Not Your Everyday Tree House

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By Michele Koh Morollo
Inspired by the form of trees, an architect breaks the mold of typical, cuboid, multi-level structures.

Sited in the Northern Tokyo district of Otsuka, the Tree-ness House is a 3,568-square-foot modern building that provides residential housing, along with space for galleries and offices. 

Designed by architect Akihisa Hirata, this futuristic structure presents an intelligent and aesthetically engaging way to bring nature into compact urban spaces. Stacked three-dimensionally, the concrete complex includes garden areas and stairs that appear to hang off the building's edges.

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Hirata has used a system of organic layering to create a series of three-dimensional spaces, while also integrating apartments and galleries within the structure's five levels.

Hirata has used a system of organic layering to create a series of three-dimensional spaces, while also integrating apartments and galleries within the structure's five levels.

The cleverly designed system is made possible thanks to the voids and pleats between the concrete boxes.

The cleverly designed system is made possible thanks to the voids and pleats between the concrete boxes.

Stacked like building blocks, the cement boxes are housed within a main structure that features complex voids.  The voids then become terraces or spaces where planters are slotted.

Stacked like building blocks, the cement boxes are housed within a main structure that features complex voids.  The voids then become terraces or spaces where planters are slotted.

The result is a low-rise residential complex with features that correspond to the trunk, branches, and leaves of trees, which served as Hirata's main source of design inspiration.

The result is a low-rise residential complex with features that correspond to the trunk, branches, and leaves of trees, which served as Hirata's main source of design inspiration.

The street-level entrance to the complex.

The street-level entrance to the complex.

"As with a tree, we tried to create organic architecture that could be formed by a hierarchical combination of different parts, such as plants, pleats as openings, and concrete boxes," explains Hirata.

"As with a tree, we tried to create organic architecture that could be formed by a hierarchical combination of different parts, such as plants, pleats as openings, and concrete boxes," explains Hirata.

The bedrooms and gallery spaces are located within the concrete boxes. 

The bedrooms and gallery spaces are located within the concrete boxes. 

The areas outside of the boxes serve as terraces and gardens.

The areas outside of the boxes serve as terraces and gardens.

The living/dining room features large expanses of glass walls. These spaces either look out to the green outdoor areas or into the interior voids.

The living/dining room features large expanses of glass walls. These spaces either look out to the green outdoor areas or into the interior voids.

Unlike typical layered buildings which usually take the form of stacked floors of similar size, Hirata’s design uses a layering system to create a complex of tangled spaces where the relationship between the indoors and outdoors are ambiguous and surreal. 

Unlike typical layered buildings which usually take the form of stacked floors of similar size, Hirata’s design uses a layering system to create a complex of tangled spaces where the relationship between the indoors and outdoors are ambiguous and surreal. 

"The arrangement of functional volumes and voids, openings, and greenery integrates and entangles the building into a single organic whole," Hirata notes.

"The arrangement of functional volumes and voids, openings, and greenery integrates and entangles the building into a single organic whole," Hirata notes.

Openings with pleats are introduced to link the interior and exterior dimensions. 

Openings with pleats are introduced to link the interior and exterior dimensions. 

Planters have been placed around the pleats to create pockets of sky gardens on the perimeter of the building, with some featuring steps that lead to other outdoor terraces.

Planters have been placed around the pleats to create pockets of sky gardens on the perimeter of the building, with some featuring steps that lead to other outdoor terraces.

"I intended to create futuristic and savage architecture that awakens human animal instincts in which the inside and outside are reversed multiple times," states Hirata.

"I intended to create futuristic and savage architecture that awakens human animal instincts in which the inside and outside are reversed multiple times," states Hirata.

The concept drawing.

The concept drawing.

A look at the elevation.

A look at the elevation.

Project Credits: 

Architecture: Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office 

Builder: Oharakomusho 

Structural engineering: OAK, tmsd 

Landscape design: Onshitsu 

Other collaborators: Yoko Ando Design and Ikegami 

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