This Sculptural Staircase Shapes an Entire Home
Add to
Like
Comment
Share
By Naomi Pollock / Published by Dwell
Recommended by
How is a 921-square-foot, 44-level house possible? Witness Tokyo architect Akihisa Hirata’s mind-bending, shape-shifting solution to small-space living.
Ran and her brother, Gen, read on one of the structure’s 44 continuous steps.

Ran and her brother, Gen, read on one of the structure’s 44 continuous steps.

In most multistory homes, stairs connect floors. But in the 921-square-foot Coil house, located in a quiet residential neighborhood in Tokyo, they are the floors. Defined by 44 steps of varying depths and widths, Coil is a dynamic swirl of continuously ascending spaces, designed by local architect Akihisa Hirata for Sakura and Ryo Sugiura, a young couple with two children.

In most multistory homes, stairs connect floors. But in the 921-square-foot Coil house, located in a quiet residential neighborhood in Tokyo, they are the floors. Defined by 44 steps of varying depths and widths, Coil is a dynamic swirl of continuously ascending spaces, designed by local architect Akihisa Hirata for Sakura and Ryo Sugiura, a young couple with two children.

The top of the house is dedicated to a dining area and a kitchen outfitted with steel-topped cabinets from Sanwa Company.

The top of the house is dedicated to a dining area and a kitchen outfitted with steel-topped cabinets from Sanwa Company.

Keen to trade their rental apartment in the suburbs for a home of their own, the couple purchased a 15-by-47-foot site, commonly known in Japan as an “eel’s nest.” To maximize the tiny, oblong lot, Hirata divided the permissible building volume with conventional walls and floors as little as possible. Instead, he planted three beefy, square-shaped wooden columns along the plot’s center axis and wrapped each one with stairs. “Big columns are uncommon in contemporary houses, but we needed them to anchor the treads,” explains Hirata. While large, open landings act as rooms, level changes eliminate the need for partitions and doors. “The winding of the stairs separates spaces,” says the architect.

Balancing the steps’ orientation and dimensions (they had to be big enough to hold furniture, such as the clients’ Fritz Hansen dining table and Kartell storage units) with programmatic requirements, such as off-street parking, a terrace, and built-in bookshelves, the three-story climb begins at the wedge-shaped foyer. Four steps descend to the bathroom, while 13 broad treads, ranging in depth from two to five feet and doubling as the library, ascend to a series of large landings, designated as living and sleeping areas. At the top of the house, the sequence culminates in a compact galley kitchen, followed by an elevated dining area. Per the clients’ request, this last room abuts a south-facing terrace, overlooking a leafy shrine precinct. Expansive views from all sides of the house help it feel bigger.

As with traditional Japanese homes, Coil’s floor plane is not only a surface for walking but also a versatile platform for living. Devoid of heavy furniture, each landing accommodates a multitude of activities on a daily basis. “[This] fits our ‘futon lifestyle,’” says Ryo, explaining that the family freely spreads out their mattresses on any of the large landings at night. But during the day, after the bedding is stowed in a deep closet (one of two large storage areas tucked beneath Coil’s giant stairs), the spaces become an informal study for Sakura and Ryo or an impromptu play area for Gen and Ran, ages six and three. While inhabiting a giant staircase might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Hirata’s clever strategy turns a tiny interior into an efficient and refreshingly innovative living space.

Three-year-old Ran Sugiura peers out the front door of her Tokyo home, a concept-driven yet surprisingly livable piece of architecture that her parents describe as uniquely well suited to the family’s flexible “futon lifestyle.”

Three-year-old Ran Sugiura peers out the front door of her Tokyo home, a concept-driven yet surprisingly livable piece of architecture that her parents describe as uniquely well suited to the family’s flexible “futon lifestyle.”

Details
Project: Coil
Architect: Akihisa Hirata
n

Naomi Pollock

@naomi_pollock

In addition to publishing articles on both sides of the Pacific, Naomi Pollock is the author of five books, including Made in Japan: 100 New Products. An architect by training, Pollock now lives in Tokyo, just a stone's throw from the home featured in "All Wrapped Up" (November 2012). "While visiting the residence, I marveled at how much fun the clients' kids have growing up in a house made of stairs."

Comments
Everybody loves feedback. Be the first to add a comment.
The author will be notified whenever new comments are added.
Dwell Life © 2016Download our iOS App

Join us and discover, create, and collaborate with the Dwell community.

Log in