A Compact House in Japan Is Defined by Dynamic Arches and Lush Courtyards

A Compact House in Japan Is Defined by Dynamic Arches and Lush Courtyards

By Laura Mauk
Arbol Design creates a tiny house in Osaka with a cantilevered front facade that appears to float above a garden floor.

The 645-square-foot house that architects Yousaku and Madoca Tsutsumi of Arbol Design imagined for a compact lot in Osaka, Japan, is marked by a poetic series of archways and lush courtyards. The clients, a family of three, specifically requested Peranakan architectural details. "They wanted an extraordinary atmosphere; simple, exotic elements that would enrich their hearts," Yousaku says. 

"This site in Osaka Prefecture is in the center of the city, where there are temples and old Japanese-style row houses," Madoca says. Inspired by Peranakan Architecture, Arbol devised a series of dramatic arches that define pathways from one room to the next. The curved openings also frame views of the courtyards, help gradate the influx of sunlight, and create shadow play.

"The size of the arches varies rhythmically," Yousaka says. "The gardens, the ceiling incline, and the sequence of arches create a sight line that gives psychological depth. You can feel the connection with the outside—the arches and partial arches produce a sense of openness."

Like the neighboring residences, the home presents as a row house, but the arches, the yard just beyond the front facade, and the central courtyard provide an indoor/outdoor connection that lets it live larger than its 645 square feet. "You can feel the sunlight and watch the seasons change," Madoca says.

The archways progress throughout the interior, leading residents from one room to the next. A second courtyard is situated between the kitchen/dining area and a staircase that leads to the loft. Teak flooring in the kitchen/dining area contrasts with the lime plaster walls, adding warmth to the space.

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The home’s gray stucco cladding gives it a quiet presence, but the cantilevered front facade commands attention. "The gap at the bottom of the front facade lets wind flow through the home," Yousaka says. The negative space also allows for the texture and the scents of the garden to peek through, giving passersby a glimpse of what lies beyond the front door. 

"We hope the architecture can inject new life into this town," Madoca says. "We planned two external spaces in this house. The window eaves are made of glass, so as not to block the natural light. Strong sunlight comes in from the south window that faces the front yard, and soft light comes in from the big window that faces the courtyard. The large leaves and dark green color of the courtyard plants are in harmony with the concept of the house. It’s a narrow site, but you can feel nature."

Related Reading:

A Concrete Micro-House in Japan Works All the Angles

A Tiny House in Tokyo Opens to the Sky—and the Street

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Arbol Design

Secondary Architects: Architects Atelier M.A.R., Yoshikuni Miyamoto Architects

Builder: Iwatsuru Co.

Landscape Design: GreenSpace

Lighting Design: Daiko Electric Co.

Interior Design: Shimomura Photo Office

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