Japanese universities aren’t typically in the housing business. Students at most schools live at home or rent private apartments nearby—dormitories are all but nonexistent. So there was room to experiment when New York–based Studio SUMO was commissioned by its longtime client, Josai University Educational Corp., to build a dorm for international students at its Josai International University campus in Togane, Japan, outside of Tokyo.
The program for the structure—the first building on a new campus expansion—called for a relatively straightforward combination of residential uses and common spaces, as well as a gallery honoring Prince Takamado, who helped broker the deal between Japan and South Korea to jointly host the 2002 World Cup. (A nearby soccer field is also named after the late prince.) The dorm project also needed to minimize construction costs to keep room rents low. Studio SUMO responded to this brief with a long, skinny rectangular structure—an intentionally small footprint to allow for the campus to expand—wrapped on three sides by a scrim of horizontal aluminum bands.
“The motivation was to have this thing which somehow disguised or blurred what the program of the building was,” says partner Sunil Bald. “We decided that the front façade should really be this statement. You shouldn’t be able to discern how many floors the building is or what the purpose is.”
Triangular balconies project from the top four of five stories along the southwest façade, and the façade’s aluminum bands block some of the rural area’s winds as well as provide shade for the corridors that run behind them. These open-air walkways and balconies are the main public spaces, accessed through sliding doors from interior corridors. “The idea was to try to make a vertical community for the students and to have pockets of space where they can gather,” says partner Yolande Daniels.
Other public areas include the gallery, a second-floor terrace, an event space, and a group kitchen, but most of the interior is dedicated to 44 units for 133 residents. The university wanted to accommodate relatively wealthy students as well as those from low-income backgrounds, so Studio SUMO designed a variety of room configurations, ranging from single-occupancy suites with private bathrooms to four-bed rooms with shared bathrooms down the hall. Spaces in the four-bed rooms are available for about ¥8,300 (roughly $80) per month.
The building’s structural design was optimized to increase the number of dorm spaces. By using thicker walls in strategic places, Studio SUMO avoided the need for interior support beams. That enabled the firm to squeeze in an extra floor but still comply with the university’s height limit, creating even more space for the burgeoning on-campus population.
Project: JOSAI I-House Togane Global Village, Togane, Japan
Client: Josai University Educational Corp.
Design Architect/Interior Designer: Studio SUMO, New York . Sunil Bald, Yolande Daniels (partners in charge); Edward Yujoung Kim, Teo Quintana, Jae-Hyun Kim, Kevin Sani, Yezi Dai, Youngtack Oh, Masahi Takazawa (project team)
Architect of Record: Obayashi Corp., Tokyo . Koji Onishi (general manager); Toshimichi Takei (manager); Atsuko Mori (deputy manager); Mao Shigeishi, Hikaru Takei
M/E/Structural/Civil/Geotechnical Engineer: Obayashi Corp.
Construction Manager/General Contractor/Landscape Architect/Construction Supervision: Obayashi Corp.
Lighting Designer: Studio SUMO, Obayashi Corp.
Size: 30,168 square feet
Cost: ¥1,600 million ($15 million)
This article appeared in the November 2016 issue of ARCHITECT.