The Cat House by Key Operation

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The Cat House by KOP

This Tokyo house by Japanese architects Key Operation has been designed around the movements of the client's pet cat, writes Yuki Sumner.

The Cat House by KOP

Stepping-stone shelves allow a cat to move between rooms in The Cat House through high level openings, without using the landing and stairs.

The Cat House by KOP

With integrated book shelves, the landing doubles up as a library and study.

The Cat House by Key Operation

Above photograph is by Keizo Shibasaki.

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The Cat House by KOP

Photography is by Key Operation, apart from where otherwise stated.

The Cat House by Key Operation

The following is from the architects:


Neko no Ie (The Cat House)

A century ago, the famous Japanese novelist Sosuke Natsume wrote a novel called “I Am a Cat (Wagahai Wa Neko De Aru).” It is written from the point of view of a cat.

The Cat House by KOP

The cat, who remains nameless during the novel’s first chapter, lives in a house with a teacher and his family. He is angry that he is not regarded as an equal member of the family in this household. “I will never catch mice,” the cat announces haughtily, not wishing to make himself useful.

The Cat House by KOP

What if, however, there was a house, which has been designed specifically with a cat in mind? What would it look like? The Japanese architect Akira Koyama of Key Operation Inc. has recently designed a house for a young family, which included a pet cat, in the densely populated Taishido district, west of Tokyo. Undoubtedly, this house would have made Natsume’s cat green with envy.

The Cat House by KOP

Neko no Ie (The Cat House) stands on a typically compact, rectilinear site (7 meters wide, 12 meters deep) along a narrow residential street, just big enough for a single car to pass through.

The Cat House by KOP

Above photograph is by Keizo Shibasaki.

Although the plot is small, the client (including the cat) did not specify the need for an outdoor garden space, and so the architect decided to set the house back by 3 meters from the street, thereby creating a void, synonymous in Japan with a sense of luxury.

The Cat House by KOP

The upper section of the house is further set back from the ground level, generating a balcony. It is generally perceived that the Japanese architects have a greater freedom of expression than the Western counterparts but we forget that there are a number of restrictions that the Japanese architects face when designing buildings in Japan, and this is no exception.

The Cat House by KOP

There is a law, for example, restricting the owning of a car to those who can ensure its parking space. Neko no Ie, like many houses on the street, accommodates a garage within the house.

The Cat House by KOP

Above photograph is by Keizo Shibasaki.

The architect faced yet another restriction imposed in this area. It forbade the use of bright colours on exterior facades so that the ‘scenery’ of the area is conserved. Neko no Ie’s grey stucco façade complies with this regulation.

The Cat House by KOP

Undeterred, however, Koyama subtly managed to subvert both of these restrictions by painting the inside of the garage bright pink, therefore making a feature out of what is usually a dark and dingy space and injecting much-needed playfulness in this otherwise boring grey neighbourhood.

The Cat House by KOP

The house’s asymmetrical roofline maximizes both its playfulness as well as its volume. The architect has created within a complex interior space consisting of rooms of varying sizes, which are stack on top of each other over three floors.

The Cat House by KOP

One would not be able to observe such a structure from outside of the house, but it reflects the layout of the area, which has a mixture of detached houses, both large and small.

The-Cat-House-by-KOP

The biggest room in the house is the dining/living room, stretched horizontally to fit the whole width of the house. By also extending the room vertically, the architect has opened up this room to the rest of the house.

The-Cat-House-by-KOP

What look like shelves jutting out of one wall of this room are actually steppingstones for the pet cat to enter into the adjacent rooms through the openings placed higher up on the wall.

The-Cat-House-by-KOP

This arrangement leaves the ample staircase and landings, which double up as a library, undisturbed from the burst of activities of the feline member of the family, while the rest of the family uses them as a place of quietude.

The Cat House by KOP

Moreover, just as the garage became the visual focal point for the exterior of the house, the staircase, painted also brightly pink, signals a gathering of all the separate interior sections of Neko no Ie.

The Cat House by KOP

Above photograph is by Keizo Shibasaki.

By varying the sizes of the rooms and painting them in different colours, the architect has emphasized their uniqueness and separateness.

The Cat House by KOP

Above photograph is by Keizo Shibasaki.

At the same time, he has managed to link the rooms through small and large openings so that none of the rooms is completely isolated. Autonomy is respected but isolation is discouraged.

The Cat House by KOP

For instance, a large opening in the wall of the dining/living room, which looks into the kitchen, allows the person who is cooking to connect with the person who is being served.

The-Cat-House-by-KOP

In the meantime, the cat can slip into the study located above the kitchen through yet another, this time smaller, opening.

The Cat House by KOP

The rooms’ co-dependence is thus implicitly emphasized.

The Cat House by KOP

Neko no Ie is a symbolic celebration of the emergence of the modern Japanese family, more democratic than the traditional one preceding it, allowing each member to flourish independently while nurturing a supportive environment.

The Cat House by KOP

Ironically, a pet cat was an integral part of it.

Text by Yuki Sumner, 2011


See also:

.

Yachiyo
by Atelier Tekuto
House by Yoshio Oono
Architect & Associates
House in Fukuyama
by Suppose Design Office
  • Gavin Welch

    A brilliant idea for designing a building around and a great result, its also nice to see the sketches and models with the report. However for a house which is "designed around the movements of the client’s pet cat," it would be really nice if we could see the cat moving around the building.

  • Adarsha

    Nice use of colours… But the designer could have avoided the air conditioning unit sticking out in the first two snaps..

    Even then, Good job..

  • http://www.dailygrail.com Red Pill Junkie

    Um… so where's the cat?

  • pAUL

    yES LOVE THIS, BUT WANTED TO SEE THE CAT!!

  • nikki

    Very sweet. I like how you have shown the house clean in the earlier images, and in use with all the books and knicknacks in later images. Very fun, very livable.

  • Akira

    Finally no there is a photo with the cat!

  • douglas

    If I designed anything for my cat it would either deliberately ignore it, or if it did use it, it would use it for the opposite of whatever the design was intended for. Cats are the most contrary creatures on earth.

  • http://www.deloprojet.com delo

    As the saying goes, humans live in the House of the cat, but where is the Cat Fund ?
    Good style.

  • Hercule Poirot

    Thanks God cats are colorblind !

  • viki

    Does the cat KNOW how to get around in the house? I mean, is he or she taken on a tour and told that these "steps" and "windows" are for them? LOL. Actually, I LOVE the house. I could live like that, but my family — not so much.