IDEA Office — When a couple with two young children decided to build a home on a 10-meter-square site in Saitama, Japan (northwest of Tokyo), they weren’t choosing lightly. The site had been in the family for generations, and they were, in fact, rebuilding on the site of the husband’s childhood home. The goal: To create a peaceful family dwelling that maintains privacy while not cutting off natural light or ventilation in an increasingly dense urban neighborhood.

The design team at Los Angeles–based Idea Office answered the challenge by creating a folded façade of insulated metal panels that creates space for courtyards and balconies between the skin and the mass of the house. “It’s a beautiful object, first of all,” said Aaron Betsky, “then it makes some very nice spaces with minimal means.”

Carlos Jimenez agreed, and liked the contrast between the spaces created. “What’s interesting is the way the project turns what is perhaps a threatening object from the outside into something inside that is quite subtle, even the way they leave the galvanized steel exposed.” And leaving the steel exposed was intentional—it was fabricated in the client’s factory, so that the family could have a hand in crafting its new home.

The interior space is divided into three levels, all visually connected by central open staircases and double-height ceilings. The result is a densely programmed but airy 1,050 square feet, which includes three bedrooms, a kitchen, living-dining space, and a carport for two vehicles.

The carport’s relationship to the façade garnered praise from the jurors, who were weary of seeing enclosed garages. “I think what’s really lovely about it is that it has the risk of being just a volumetric thing that’s sort of gravity bound,” Marion Weiss said. “But instead of just being gravity bound, it actually pulls up to allow the garage in. It’s very skillfully done.”

Project Credits

Client Motoshi and Yukiyo Yatabe
Architect Idea Office, Los Angeles—Eric A. Kahn, Russell N. Thomsen (principals); Ron Golan, Keith Gendel, Adrian Ariosa, Rinaldo Perez (project team)
Associate Architect Masao Yahagi & Associates, Tokyo, Japan—Masao Yahagi (principal); Jun Nakashima, Hideaki Takenaga (project team)
Structural Engineer Yumiko Koya
Size 1,050 square feet