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This Modern Japanese Home Creates Privacy in the Most Remarkable Way

Living in a city often means that you know your neighbors—whether you want to or not. For a couple in Fukuoka, Japan, a prefecture capital of 1.6 million inhabitations on the northern shore of the island of Kyushu, local firm NKS2 Architects inverted the typical suburban house, creating a site-specific, innovative design on a busy street where the homeowners can entertain who they want, and nothing else. To provide total privacy, the approximately 3,080-square-foot home is designed like a theater-in-the-round, its curving wood walls forming a streetside perimeter to protect the house from noise and passersby. The central stage, so to speak, is a landscaped courtyard that ensures the asymmetrical ring of interior space surrounding it is always airy and sunlit.

aerial view of neighborhood

An aerial view of the busy neighborhood within Fukuoka, Japan

Photo: Courtesy of Yashiro Photo Office

But it’s the innovative Japanese tile roof structure that truly allowed NKS2 Architects partners Kaoru Suehiro, Noriko Suehiro, and Hiroyuki Sato to explore artistry in the engineering. Supported by a few steel columns and a radial frame of laminated timber beams that vary gradually in length, the roof meets the ground in the courtyard in five places, simultaneously creating some solid walls for interior shading and variety, and some pocket gardens that are abutted by ventilation windows on three sides.

The roof is supported by a few steel columns and a radial frame of laminated timber beams.

Photo: Courtesy of Yashiro Photo Office

The courtyard is landscaped to ensures the asymmetrical ring of interior space surrounding it is always airy and sunlit.

Photo: Courtesy of Yashiro Photo Office

“The design aimed for an open building that could enjoy a rich natural environment even within a residential area and serve not only as a private place but also as a gallery or party venue,” explains Sato of the client’s brief. The unusual roof shape helps achieve these goals. Its upward angle curbs sound interference from the busy street on which the home is sited, blocks out views of buildings around it, frames vistas of the sky for the homeowners and their houseguests, and collects rainwater for recycling.

A view of the home from the street

Photo: Courtesy of Yashiro Photo Office

The total size of the home is approximately 3,080 square feet, with every inch in it designed to maximize privacy from the busy neighborhood.

Photo: Courtesy of Yashiro Photo Office

Visitors enter directly into the court through a long hallway before they reach the front door, meaning gatherings can take place entirely outside, if desired. If the garage is the entry point, they pass into a traditional Japanese doma to remove shoes and then can move into a tatami room or the kitchen.

The unusual roof shape curbs sound interference from the busy street, blocks views of buildings, and collects rainwater for recycling.

Photo: Courtesy of Yashiro Photo Office

All rooms within the home look out on a private courtyard.

Photo: Courtesy of Yashiro Photo Office

The interiors are largely open plan, though the bathroom is housed in a separated wood-walled block and the bedroom is behind a door. Sunlight peeks in through the perimeter wall via a ring of clerestory windows and every so often, a thin vertical aperture. Scale changes are courtesy of the innovative roof. “On the side facing the front road, the garage and private entrance have lower ceilings, while the living room and dining room, where people gather, have larger and higher ceilings,” says the architect. “Through these methods, diverse spaces with variously sized courtyards and differences in ceiling height have been created within the contiguous space.” The umbrella-like timber structure overhead is entirely visible and creates a handsome, organically minimalist effect coupled with curved plaster walls that receive the soft light reflected into the home.

The round form of this vessel-like house left the connected corners of the lot open to landscape. Planted with trees and ground cover, the site contributes greenery to the streetscape it neither sees nor hears. Though this house may be inwardly focused, it’s still a good neighbor.

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