Himeji Observatory House by KINO architects


Masahiro Kinoshita of KINO architects has completed a house in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, designed to afford views towards the nearby castle from the third floor living room. 

Called Himeji Observatory House, the three-storey project was conceived as a concrete rectangular volume divided in half.

Each volume was shifted to accommodate parking spaces and twisted towards the castle.

More about KINO architects on Dezeen:

Corner house (March 2009)
Guest House Tokyo (September 2008)

Photographs are by Daici Ano.

The text below is from Masahiro Kinoshita:

Himeji Observatory House

“A modern living space for observing Himeji castle that integrates smoothly with the surrounding historical neighborhood.”

This building is a private house with an attached office, directly northwest of Himeji castle. The site’s depth is longer than its width. There is also a building adjacent to this house which obscures Himeji castle at ground level. One thing to note is that even though there are modern buildings in this city, this private residence is surrounded by a traditional “castle town”, with many historical buildings, houses, and monuments.

We were petitioned by the client to design a living space with the following three requests:

  • To be able to see Himeji castle from the living room,
  • To be able to park five cars, with three of those stalls as the guest parking space and,
  • To incorporate a garden where laundry can be hung out to dry and to allow their dogs to run about freely.

Therefore, the theme of this project was to respond to the client's requests while mediating the differences between the historical buildings and the new residence.

The solution to the theme was created by using the shape of a twisted rectangular structure and was designed with the following steps:

  • The building was designed at a distance from the street to make the necessary parking space.
  • A rectangular structure was basically cut in half, with each half shifted in opposite directions to make a “staggered” form, which allows enough space for the private garden.
  • The walls of the staggered structure were then slightly twisted and lifted in order to incorporate a view of Himeji castle.

In architectural terms, this process creates a building structure with four hyperbolic parabolic walls (refer to concept model). As the walls increase in height, the overall area and volume of each floor increases as well, giving the house a more spacious atmosphere.

In addition, when compared to a tall, large building that is adjacent to low-rise historical structures, the Himeji Observatory House adapts much better to its surroundings because the twisted, staggered shape reduces any extraneous volume that would otherwise impede on the overall appearance of the neighborhood.

Furthermore, as the building ages and the concrete walls start to weather, the Himeji Observatory House will develop more character - the trees will grow taller, the exterior walls will become weather-stained, and the entire property will slowly harmonize with the rest of the neighbourhood. The modest appearance that comes with age will be similar to the moss-covered stone walls of Himeji castle.

I designed this house as if it were coming to life, stretching its toes in order to see Himeji castle over the canopy of the trees. I hope that the house will reflect the client's attachment to Himeji castle, while also being accepted by the historical town.

Click for larger image

architect :Masahiro Kinoshita / KINO architects
location :Himeji Hyogo Prefecture
principal use :private residence
structure :reinforced concrete
scale of building :3 stories
site area :162.54 m²
building area :56.03m²
total floor area :155.13m²
completion :2009.05
Photo: Daici Ano

Posted on Thursday February 25th 2010 at 1:48 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • hj

    enough with the Andoesque concrete projects from Japan, please…

  • e3

    i think you just coined a new term.

  • wasps

    “designed to afford views towards the nearby castle from the third floor living room”

    not one image of the view from that window to the castle…

  • LL

    beautiful! i love the natural lighting effects.

  • ARS

    The first photograph is really impressive.

  • sophie

    looks like a monster next to the typical houses (that are almost not shown)

  • gab xiao

    exposed concrete is never enough… I enjoy the house and the skewed yet calm interior spaces.

    the wooden floor vs exposed concrete ceiling generate a warm feel. I also like the light reveal where the walls meet the ceiling; that feels like living modern, without ostentation or being trendy…

  • Erm, wot castle….?

  • ” I also like the light reveal where the walls meet the ceiling; that feels like living modern, without ostentation or being trendy…”

    haha. tongue firmly in cheek.

  • Abhi

    @ Hj : totally my point. Exposed concrete and glass.Is that all that’s happening in Japan ?

  • precast oh precast ..we need more timber building!

  • Bozo

    Wheres the precast? Wish my country had concrete like that

  • A beautifully designed building. Exposed concrete has been ‘trendy’ for quite a while now and with good reason, it looks fantastic.
    Doing ‘Andoesque concrete projects’? What is wrong with that?
    I do tend to agree that we are being saturated by Japanese buildings at the moment, which is great, but surely the rest of the world is doing some fine architecture too? If so, let’s see them, if not, go Japan!

  • I like the thought of a concrete structure but often they lack character and livelihood.

  • eva

    ok, the house was made as observatory-and then there isnt even ONE photo of the castle view??!! i’m starting to doubt u get any decent view from this house…

  • is this place inhabited by people or ghosts? i know japanese architetcure is restrained and austere but this is a bit extreme.

  • Rib

    i think its pretty impressive the spaces inside and lighting ,but concrete makes it somehow boring and lifeless

  • Matt

    The idea of the lighting at the junction is great. But the execution is not. Raw concrete combined with timber is a comfortable balance but to see those fluorescent bulbs tips the scales toward interrogation cell. Could a concealed LED not have been used? They are getting more powerful these days aren’t they?

  • Donkey

    What is the Japanese fascination with deathtrap staircases?