The thin, fluoropolymer-painted steel plate that forms the primary structure of the S-House extends beyond the glazed perimeter. Privacy curtains allow for views out but not in.
Sergio Pirrone The thin, fluoropolymer-painted steel plate that forms the primary structure of the S-House extends beyond the glazed perimeter. Privacy curtains allow for views out but not in.


Philosophy and architecture are certainly no strangers, but rarely does a scenario play out where a client finds an architect who can fully express the client’s life’s work through the design for a single-family home. Such is the case with the S-House in Omiya, in the Saitama Prefecture of Japan. The client is a professor of what he terms “network philosophy.” An acolyte of French philosopher Michel Serres, he studies the interconnections between humans and nature.

Tokyo-based architect Yuusuke Karasawa—who worked at MVRDV and Shigeru Ban Architects before starting his eponymous firm in 2006—is interested in what he terms “complicated network space,” wherein, he says, “walls, ceilings, and floors are intricately entwined together.” So when Karasawa got the commission to design this 1,117-square-foot house, it was a match made in … well, complex interior volumes and viewlines.

Scissoring staircases connect the split-level interiors, offering glimpses into the bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, and other spaces.
Sergio Pirrone Scissoring staircases connect the split-level interiors, offering glimpses into the bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, and other spaces.

The result is a split-level, two-story structure with ribbons of glazing so expansive that the views of the dense suburban neighborhood are all-encompassing and inhabitants’ every action is on display. (Mirrored polyester privacy curtains appear opaque outside but still allow views out.)

Working with British engineer Alan Burden, Karasawa developed a structural system that allowed him to “recognize a network space purely,” he says. Steel plates, 6 millimeters thick, were welded together to form box beams that mark each half-level on the façade. The void inside the beams allows for electrical and mechanical systems and equipment. To minimize seams, the beams and glazing were fabricated at maximum lengths. Thin steel columns are positioned at the corners to deal with the stressors of Japan’s earthquake-prone environment.

Wood bookcases define the study.
Sergio Pirrone Wood bookcases define the study.
White-painted plaster board covers most of the M.C. Escher–like interior. Hard surfaces are countered by the perimeter curtains and in some spaces by hemp carpet.
Sergio Pirrone White-painted plaster board covers most of the M.C. Escher–like interior. Hard surfaces are countered by the perimeter curtains and in some spaces by hemp carpet.

Karasawa’s system of scissoring central staircases would make M.C. Escher proud. The split levels and lack of interior partitions make for complex spatial relationships between the two bedrooms and baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, and study. Each functionally discrete area visually bleeds into others. The house is capped by two white-ceramic-tiled terraces, reminiscent of those favored by Le Corbusier.

After the client moved in, Karasawa says, “he thought the house succeeded in realizing network philosophy as his lifelong theme of study, and was also quite a comfortable space for daily living.” Proof, perhaps, that architecture can not only be driven by, but also imitate, philosophy.

Kitchen.
Sergio Pirrone Kitchen.
Bathroom.
Sergio Pirrone Bathroom.
Sergio Pirrone
Dining area with view down to bedroom and up to living room.
Sergio Pirrone Dining area with view down to bedroom and up to living room.
Two ceramic-tiled roof terraces provide outdoor space in the dense urban neighborhood.
Sergio Pirrone Two ceramic-tiled roof terraces provide outdoor space in the dense urban neighborhood.
The S-House stands out from the dense context of its context in Saitama prefecture.
Sergio Pirrone The S-House stands out from the dense context of its context in Saitama prefecture.
View into the foyer.
Sergio Pirrone View into the foyer.
Street view at dusk.
Sergio Pirrone Street view at dusk.


Drawings

Courtesy Yuusuke Karasawa Architects



Project Credits
Project  S-House, Omiya, Saitama, Japan
Architect  Yuusuke Karasawa Architects, Tokyo—Yuusuke Karasawa (principal in charge)
General Contractor  O’Hara Architectural and Construction—Akira O’Hara, Satoshi Kikuch
Size  103.76 square meters (1,117 square feet) Material and Sources
Structure  Steel frame; Fluoropolymer-painted steel plate
Flooring  Ceramic tiles; Oak flooring; Hemp carpet
Walls  Emulsion-painted plaster board