MM Apartment by Nakae Architects
and Ohno Japan


Japanese architects Nakae Architects and Ohno Japan have collaborated to create student accommodation in Tokyo where slits run round the building near the top of each storey.

Called MM Apartment, the three-storey residence is divided into eight dwellings, each designed for a single person.

Each apartment spans two floors and the multiple flights of stairs create angled walls within adjacent rooms.

The slits near the top of each storey admit slices of light so that each storey seems to float above the one below.

Small square windows are positioned at different heights in the facade.

Also by Nakae Architects: NE apartments a block of eight apartments for motorcycle enthusiasts in Tokyo (April 2008).

Photographs are by Hiroyasu Sakaguchi.

Here's some more information from the architect:


A three-story multiple dwelling house, consisting of eight housing units for a single person, at a town where a prestigious private university locates the campus. Each unit has floor area of approximately 23 square meter on average. The area is as about same as a studio apartment in city center; however, this house is planned as maisonette and triplett type to access from floors above ground.

The site faces each different environment, such as a heavily-trafficked road to the west, a road on which almost only pedestrians walk to the south, electric train line across a coin-operated parking lot to the north, and a neighboring house to the east. Because of frequently blaring of railroad crossing and trains, and automobile traffic also, the site is placed in an environment in which creating an open space is generally difficult.

To create less relative merits for an environment around each unit as much as possible, a simple volume, formed by just offsetting the shape of site, is divided into two pieces; then each piece is divided again into smaller four pieces; and two spaces consisting of respectively four housing units are constructed with quadplex spiral forms.

In each housing unit, a volume of space is misaligned in the counterclockwise direction every time of going upstairs to the upper floor. Layering small spaces and moving between floors with misalignment produces successfully a space with sense of abundant perspective which can’t be evaluated by its area.

On the basis of the quadplex spiral constitution, when boundary plane is constructed with reinforced concrete as a structure, vertical, horizontal, oblique planes appear like natural landscape; and these planes correspond to a floor, a wall, and a staircase respectively to form a space accepting a resident’s life.

The constitution is formed simply with the tri-layered same floor plan, and aimed to achieve both rationality and simplicity including problems of execution of work, and producing a complicate, diversified space. Along the seams where ceiling meets inner surface of external wall, slit-like openings with a height of five centimeters are provided to let in light, but not sight line.

The constitution is formed simply with the tri-layered same floor plan, and aimed to achieve both rationality and simplicity including problems of execution of work, and producing a complicate, diversified space. Along the seams where ceiling meets inner surface of external wall, slit-like openings with a height of five centimeters are provided to let in light, but not sight line.

Natural light shines softly in an interior from the slits like indirect lighting. In this situation of difficulty for openness, not only producing a closed space, but also I desired to develop a new environment which can’t be expressed with dichotomy between openness and closeness.

Though the housing units of the multiple dwelling are very small, it is focused to create a new space enabling an everyday-life experience which is different completely from general concept of space.

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Principal Use: housing

Architect:Yuji Nakae / NAKAE ARCHITECTS
Hirofumi Ohno / Ohno JAPAN
General Constructor: Matsushima kogyo Co., Ltd.

Site Area: 98.30m2
Building Area: 65.53m2
Total Floor Area: 196.59m2
Ground Level: 65.53m2
2nd Level: 65.53m2
3rd Level: 65.53m2
Structure: Reinforced Concrete, 3 stories
Maximum Height: 7750mm

Time for Completion
Design Period: Mar.2008 - Dec.2008
Construction Period: Jan.2009 - Aug.2009

Posted on Wednesday February 24th 2010 at 5:01 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Welcome to claustrophobia.

    You’d think the space would be used more efficiently, and made to perceptually feel bigger, not heavier.

  • Hamid

    but they have lost a notable size of floor area just because of stairs!

  • jeanpierre

    erk such a nightmare

  • INawe

    awkward spaces. this is too confining and cave-like. btw, what is going on with all the mechanical and plumbing? its as if they did not even think about these things while designing the spaces.

  • hkjhkjh

    i wounder about the acoustics. Washingmashine sound in the whole house?

  • Gunnar Á.

    Why the tiny windows? Tight spaces need light. More daylight please.

  • ste

    they did forget the windows in this renderings… good to know theres enough time till it gets built cause the rooms and the organisation has lots of potential ;-)

  • I don’t like its detail.

  • memo

    Does these japanese guys know the concept of privacy in a bathroom ?

  • oliv

    that’s awfull!!

    that’s just the opposite of “suppose design office” who makes great buildings.

  • B

    Awesome puzzle!!

  • mano

    exciting spaces but I never could live in this

  • This is hideous. I speak as one who actually finds brutalist architecture somewhat appealing and keeps an open mind to forward thinking in architecture, but this building looks like a military installation or jail, complete with random corners, impossibly steep stairs, ridiculous placement of bathrooms and laundry rooms and absolutely no thought into the fact that people (yes people, with flesh and blood) will be living in this space.

  • john catao

    Japanese new modern architecture is getting just weird. Huge absurd designed buildings with small windows.

  • heath


  • 100% brutalist in the modern world!

  • jack

    do japanese peopple have some sort of pathological fear of natural light…?

  • m!

    I think japanese people have a different perception of space than the americans or europeans.

    This building is, in a good way, haunted.
    I could live in there perfectly.

  • Wierd me out.

  • Minimalist

    In principle a great concept … and perhaps doable with twice the square footage — but in this case I will need heavy drugs to prevent fatal depression.
    Is this grey concrete cube really a desirable home or living space ? Where do you cook (one one hot plate?), put furniture, a piece of art/picture, bed … everyone has to witness you shower/do business.

    It feels like a correntional institution.

  • Chris,

    You nailed it, it needs lots of blood to feel right. Splashes, pools and drippings please. Then I will understand why these people live alone…

  • eb nyc

    It’s obvious people: This is mannerist play.

    No reason to judge it as dark, absurd, lack of privacy. It is a like a stage set. We are at the point today, where architectural design becomes a sort of play, or game. I am not advocating that, but it is obvious here. Japan is probably leading that field.

    We have seen it all today, end of the story. Wall, room, window, balcony, skylight, open kitchen and toilet. So designs like that will always pop up, no doubt.

  • Abhi

    All the Japanese projects shown here on dezeen have each in their own unique way displayed a Tadao Ando influence.

  • wow … looks like a grave with stairs … never want to live in those house

  • jbb

    make children, a family, delete stairs and partitions, open some windows, and it could be fine

  • William Smith

    Thats just plain hideous. In all respects except the lighting reveal.

  • steep stairs, no natural light (i guess the photograph had to use a looong exposure to make those shots), spaces that do not seem easy to furnish… absurd ! Chris is totally right. here’s not a matter of quality of architectural preference, it’s about usage !

  • Erik

    To answer those of you thinking about the light. Yes, Japanese people seem to fear natural light. Privacy, when living in Tokyo or similar cities, is rated much higher. The buildings of Seijima, Ban’s Curtain wall house among others are real exceptions. Therefore I would rather call this buildign quite conventinal. This is how most people live in tokyo – extremely tight and lacking daylight.
    But still its not a problem since they hardly “live” at home. They live at work, in trains and in bars.

  • Rune Riis

    -Another japanese bunker. -Next step; -living under ground. Minimalism without poetry!

    …Well spoken -Chris.

  • tokyokenchiku

    In the article they explain that there is a train line close by which creates a lot of noise, so they couldn’t have open spaces or large windows. Do you guys not read the articles?

    I think Japanese architecture is extremely functionalist. Why is it shaped the way it is? Code. Why no windows? Noise. These lots are usually cheap because they are close to railways or something, so the houses have to respond. Also, these are apartments for a single student. Who needs bathroom privacy in a 1 bedroom apartment? I doubt anybody will come to the top floor if you are doing your business.

    Anyway, interesting project. It could have been more elegant, though.

  • oscar

    For my money, the architect would have done better spending more time on more efficient circulation, noise amelioration with better daylit spaces, and varying the monotonous interior, and less time resolving that tricky looking but useless floating-slab slit detail. I pity the students who will be housed here.

  • angry catalan

    As tokyo kenchiku said, the small windows make sense if there’s noise around but I’d have placed them somewhere else – that picture with the extremely awkward room and the lone window facing the stairs looks terrible. This is, in fact, very similar to some stuff I did in my first year at arch school… but I have to say some of the apartments look better than the others, some pictures look quite livable but some others just don’t.

    However lots close to train stations are usually expensive as in Japan usually most activity is clustered around train stations.

    I don’t think this building is too special and it could definitely be better but I don’t agree with the angle you’re criticising this from. There are many types of housing, not just bright family suburban homes, and trying to make vertical flats is interesting (a legitimate answer to the problems of Tokyo) but here it hasn’t worked so well.

    And the street elevation is horrible.

  • Rutger

    It’s a great design, really exciting minimal spaces, and beautiful play of light. Can’t wait to visit this!

  • i2h

    nice concept, mildly depressing spatial results tho. it’s like well-designed solitary confinement.

  • Apitiko

    cool concept !!
    so private
    so complicated
    I glad to see that was happened.
    It can be developed more and more.

  • z

    The heavy concrete box with perfect tiny square window reminds me of Japanese horrible movie… Even the space, elevation, section and floor plan looks perfect for non human beings to live. As the artcle mentioned that this building is corresponding to its surrounding, but why it is so wierd and different with its neighbours? Does it mean that its neighbours do not care about the noise, code and sunlight?

  • maharadzdza

    radical B) i love it

  • maharadzdza

    you know who makes this robo-wc ?

  • scruces

    I like it too.
    Don’t see the motorcycle part though.
    At any rate, tokyokenchiku is spot on.
    Besides, there are considerably smaller.
    This in fact may be a luxurious studio for most.
    Just check those japanese capsule apartments and hotels.
    Like the “Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 ” or “The Nagakin Capsule Tower”.
    Here too is another Dezeen post – a very similar project – just as confining a space though – with a slightly different program and constraints.

  • scruces

    Again in the referenced project –

    the washing machine is smack-dab in the middle of the bathroom – that’s what you get when space is at a premium.

  • Aruchimaniaku

    Before giving so many negative opinions about this project, you HAVE to be familiar with and understand the culture that created such an object…
    I advise you to come to Japan, and try to find a cheap single-person/student affordable apartment that is larger or more appealing than your current bathroom…
    Believe me, compared to the crap that exists on the market here, this looks as spacious and functional as a single family house in a US suburbia… PLUS this project offers much more spatial interests!!!
    Have some imagination people!!!

  • Omar Jaramillo

    The minimal spaces are quite a necesity .. but I really dislike that the design didn’t reflect some identity of the spaces in the outside. A person living there will be complety anonymus… It is a health issue that the lack of light could make you depress…. if the privacy is the issue a big window can be close or blend with other elements…. at least give the dwellers the choise to close or open the windows.

  • What is it with these ‘prison’ inspired spaces that seem to be all the rage in Japanese architectural design?

  • abe

    Bunker meets housing.

  • MartinKropf

    great floor plans — a real appreciation of complexity — and most of all — extremely phenomenological — it is the most opposite of a loft space I have ever seen I think — this sort of thinking on a larger scale has the potential of some serious program mixing. great.

  • themark

    Three units have their toilet in the garage with their scooter. Be under no illusion that this is poor student housing. Their parents will be paying top dollar for them to freeze their butts off in this staircase riddled prison.

  • Haide James

    i think it is great simply because it gives permission to the rest of us to push the envelope even further… or pull it back. Why so afraid people? It is just a building and it fulfills the requirement of keeping the weather at bay – in my mind the primary concern of anything considered as "shelter". Perceived "ugliness" is a value judgment, not a fact… Regardless, it has sparked fairly passionate opinion, yes?

    Myself? I think it is interesting, and I would like to try living there.

  • Simple man

    It really doesn't make sense to me. Why are they making it complicated? I still like the conventional apartment. a common entrance, bike or even parking space in the basement, an elevator, two units per floor. They can make the building up to 5 floors, simple. Even twelve floors above ground and three floors below ground, if they want to. Some retail space on the ground floors, maybe, if it is allowed. Some units for apartments and some units for hotel rooms. Simple.

  • nico

    do U know where il the location of that architecture?