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Combining an innovative translucent membrane with a luminous, flexible internal realm populated by movable tatami rooms, Shigeru Ban's latest experimental dwelling is an object lesson in material and spatial invention.

This house in Kawagoe, north of Tokyo, forms part of Shigeru Ban's ongoing series of inventive dwellings. Designed for receptive, adventurous clients (not necessarily with large budgets), each advances a prototypical solution to the challenge of accommodating domestic life.

Here Ban's quest has led him to devise a house with a series of mobile rooms in a single shed-like volume, enclosed by milkily translucent walls. Ban describes it as the 'Naked House'. The site lies in an agricultural area, on the edge of rice paddies, so the house becomes an object in the landscape. The clients are a couple with two children and a live-in grandparent, who were drawn to the idea of a big, warehouse-type dwelling. Inspired by the surrounding greenhouses, Ban sought to devise a translucent yet highly-insulated skin - a modern version of delicate shoji (rice paper) screens. Rejecting shredded paper (sandwiched between corrugated plastic and a textile membrane) as too opaque, his experiments led him to a material more usually used for packaging fruit- extruded white polyethylene 'noodles' that combined the properties of translucence and insulation.

The synthetic noodles were fireproofed and stuffed into bags made of heat-sealed transparent polyethylene sheeting. Bags were then stapled to the timber frame of the house and concealed on the inside by a layer of nylon attached by Velcro, so the inner membrane can be removed for cleaning. A double layer of translucent polycarbonate sheeting forms the house's outer skin. This remarkable 15 in thick wall encloses a long, luminous room, glazed at one end. The other end contains fixed storage and kitchen spaces that can be partitioned off with billowing white curtains.

The lofty room forms a neutral stage set for the balletic machinations of a quartet of movable boxes constructed from paper honeycomb panels on timber frames. Each is a traditional Japanese tatami room on wheels, that can be deftly choreographed to create different configurations. The tops of the children's boxes double as play spaces and each box can be moved around to dock with wall-mounted air conditioners, electrical sockets and windows. The family are quite at ease with this somewhat unorthodox arrangement relishing the house's fluid informality.




1 Radiating light, the translucent volume of the house shimmers ethereally on the edge of a paddy field. The simple form retails surrounding local greenhouses.

2 Car port at east end.

3 Long, luminous volume forms a neutral stage set for choreography of movable tatami rooms. Curved trusses are connected to the timber framed walls by slender diagonal steel braces.

4 Boxes glide around the room as if in a domestic ballet. Top of children's boxes doubles as a play area.





Shigeru Ban Architects, Tokyo

Structural engineer

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Article Details
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Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Previous Article:UP ON THE ROOF.
Next Article:MADE IN TOKYO.

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