Yakisugi House by Terunobu Fujimori



Photographer Edmund Sumner has photographed Yakisugi House (Charcoal House), designed by Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori.


Completed in 2007, the residence is located in Nagano, Japan.


It comprises a living and dining area, two bedrooms, a study, and a tea room located in the tower.


The building is clad in charred cedar that was smoked in eight-metre lengths.


Due to the length of timber used, the material warped during this process and the resulting gaps in the facade are filled with plaster.


Here is some text about the Charcoal House, written by Yuki Sumner:


Yakisugi House
Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture

Terunobu Fujimori , 2005-2007

Terunobu Fujimori, who has been teaching architectural history for years at Tokyo University, likes to draw inspirations from sources as widely removed from contemporary Japan as possible.


He came up with the earthy shape of his first project, Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum, from reading another architect Takamasa Yoshizaka’s description of a mud hut Yoshizaka encountered on his travel through 1940’s Inner Mongolia.


For Yakisugi House, it was the small cave dwelling found near the Caves of Lascaux in France Fujimori encountered on his own travel. The cave idea materialised as the main living/dining room area, which leads to a study, two bedrooms and a tearoom inside a mini ‘tower’.


Fujimori wrapped his ‘cave’ with highly durable charred cedar boards; a traditional cladding material still used in Okayama prefecture. Normally, however, the boards come in lengths of less than two metres, for if they are any longer they warp with the heat of their production process.


Undeterred, however, the architect persuaded a group of ten friends, including the clients, to spend a whole day charring cedar boards by using a new experimental technique of his own. It took them one whole day to produce four hundred boards, all more or less eight metres tall, which were precariously but beautifully smoked in clusters of three.


The inevitable warping of the long charred boards was remedied by filling in the gaps with plaster, creating in the process the striking zebra pattern of the exterior walls.


Fujimori also landscaped the generous 1,825 square metres of land, ‘planting’ his ‘green sculpture’ alongside a small hut that serves as a rest house, reviving the old well and redirecting fresh spring water from it through a long bamboo conduit.


Finally, he paved the walkways, creating a textured surface by using brush strokes over wet mortar – again, a technique which he developed over years of experimentation.


Three tree trunks penetrating through the end of the gently sloping roof appear to have some ritualistic significance, but Fujimori simply wanted to continue on the three supporting columns skywards.


From the hand-rolled copper plates covering the roof of the mini tower to ‘bits’ of charcoal stuck, like a swarm of bees, around the stove inside the cave, Fujimori invariably, and sometimes idiosyncratically, confronts the austere ‘international’ language of modern architecture.


Kengo Kuma has called it “anti-historical’; one could also call it ‘anti-geographical.’ It would be very difficult indeed to attribute the overall style of Yakisugi House to any specific past or place.


Posted on Wednesday March 11th 2009 at 3:43 pm by Megan Wilton. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • sabino

    …provoca mais medo que vontade de viver e experimentar o espaço….

  • scruces

    interesting aesthetic

  • Radically different in a friendly way.
    It’s heartwarming. It pops out at you.
    Charred cedar and plaster would be great for a do-it-yourself summer house or ski lodge.

  • like a japanise castle

  • DD

    Intriguing aesthetic, agreed with the text description that it is difficult to place it in any specific past or place and that’s the charm in this case. The charred cedar gives a beautiful depth to the overall appearance.

  • gandalf ima

    it’s a shire home in Japan! I’ve gone absolutely mad over it!

  • Brett

    I’m surprised it’s taken this long for a good contemporary design with shingles and pitched roofs to emerge.

    Even though it’s “anti-historical” as the architect says, it definitely makes a strong connection to country homes in general.

  • Yeah, this one, I really loved.

  • charles

    One of japan’s most admired architectural historian, Fujimori’s latest residential, the Yakisugi house is my favorite!!

    The fireplace brings a beautiful contrast to the interior environment.

    I do want to go up that small room that pops out.

  • Richie

    I love the interiors.. The exterior seems to be treading on the edge of pastiche, but I don’t really know the traditional architecture well enough to judge how well they’ve co-opted\adapted the stylistic elements.

  • mil

    fairytale living………..far from the ordinary modernity.

  • yimyim

    I saw charred cedar used at the Japanese pavillion at the Vernice Arch. Bienalle a few year ago. It is amazingly beautiful, it seems to ‘suck’ light in from around it and has a colour all of its own. That was used internally however.
    And the contrast of the rough external skin with the smooth internal is lovely. Love the glazing detail with the ‘slices’ of tree trunks!
    but then again, im a sucker for the japanese

  • I really, really like it. Although outstanding personal in design it both reminds me as well as gives an alternative to the contemporary generation of Japanese architects that built very personal, but also with a very internalized set of references, superficial (in a positive way). This house shows a very different way forward by grounding the house in history, nature, orientation and the logic of its construction. A very real experience.
    It reminds me of the book ‘In Praise of Shadows’ by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. Which I could read all sensitivities.

  • Jelle

    A design that really triggers my senses….although it looks a bit like a fairy tail, it’s representative for today’s architecture.

  • m!

    i agreed with sabino…

    i feel fear…

  • The window frames made from logs.. Brilliant!

  • Laurent

    I’m going to hire this guy to biuld my house when I have the money, that’s for sure. Perfect.

  • N

    Fantastic. Makes me want to read fairy tales and turn them into architecture.

  • Edgard A.

    Just as Jelle said it really triggers your senses and artistic creativity. We saw an article in Dwell magazine (April) which led us to a search and ended up here at this wonderful site, dezeen.com. We were in Portland, OR searching, and dreaming, for a home to buy and remodel to our taste and with a green touch in mind when we found the article about Mr. Fujimori”s house. What an artist and what an intelligent use of materials, techniques and imagination. It has given us many ideas for our next home. We wonder, though, once the cedar is charred, how much “peeling” is there involved. Any place to find information on how to char cedar? Thank you for your article and your fantastic site. Edgard.

  • Lisa D

    Thank you for the article. I am also looking for more information about the process for charring cedar. Is there a name for the traditional technique, beyond “charring cedar boards”?

  • Peter Correll

    Also intrigued with this architect and technique since reading the article in Dwell. So far, I’ve found a little more but am still looking for information on the charring process.
    The charred wood is referred to as shou-sugi-ban (焼杉板), and a google search or google image search return multiple hits, but I haven’t found a “how to” source yet…
    This page may be of interest though: http://pursuingwabi.com/2007/11/05/shou-sugi-ban/
    Will post more if and when I find it…

  • Fujimori’s entry in the small spaces exhibition currently at the V&A in London is the hit of the show and uses the same aesthetic ideas on a tiny scale. Just saw the show and was spellbound by the juxtaposition of his little legged house among the medieval wood carvings and architectural fragments. Materialized folklore.


  • LOVE IT! it exudes such simplistic beauty as opposed to the many form-play future-looking architecture today(most notably Dubai)! amazing! officially a fan(:

  • chris

    I live in this city but I've never seen it! Got a map?

  • good for bird house in malaysia

  • Kohei Nakayama

    Hi, I’m doing a project on this house, and we are required to make a scaled-down model of it. Does anyone know the dimensions to the house? I can’t seem to find any info on it online.