Collection by Winifred Bird

Architect Miwa Mori


When 33-year-old Japanese architect Miwa Mori was a student in Germany, she learned a lot about architecture by observing fashion. “In winter in Germany, people wear t-shirts inside and put on a heavy jacket to go out. In Japan, we bundle up inside and put on a light coat to go out,” she notes. That’s because German houses are some of the most energy-efficient in the world, while the minimalist wonders we swoon over in Japan usually have poorly-designed skins that let in cold air during winter and hot, humid air during summer. Now Mori is back home and on a mission to build more comfortable homes. At Key Architects, the firm she runs with husband Joerg Heil, she’s blending the super-energy-efficient design skills she learned at Germany’s Passivhaus (or Passive House) Institute with traditional Japanese building methods—and reducing the carbon footprint of the country’s energy-sucking residential sector while she’s at it.

This house for a family of four in Kamakura, near Tokyo, was the first in Japan to receive Passive House certification,...
“The Passive House system is about achieving affordable energy-efficient houses.
Until now, Passive House design hasn’t taken off in climates that are cold in winter and humid in summer because the...
Building small took total energy consumption and cost even lower.
“The Passive House is nothing special in Europe now.
In 2004, Mori joined Bucholz McEvoy Architects in Dublin, where she worked on the firm’s acclaimed Elm Park project.
Mori served as an energy consultant for this carbon neutral house in Yamagata Prefecture, designed by a team at Tohoku...
The project, which used locally-harvested wood and a natural plaster finish, brought Mori closer to her vision of...
“With Passive Houses we talk about the energy consumption during use.

Get a Daily Dose of Design

Sign up for the Dwell Daily Newsletter and never miss our new features, photos, home tours, stories, and more.