Garden and House
by Ryue Nishizawa


This Tokyo five-storey townhouse by Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa is fronted by a stack of gardens.

Garden and House by Ryue Nishizawa

Located in a dense commercial district, the building provides a combined home and workplace for two writers. The site was just four metres wide, so Nishizawa designed a building that has only glass walls to avoid narrowing the interior spaces even further.

Garden and House by Ryue Nishizawa

"My final decision of structure consisted of a vertical layer of horizontal slabs to create a building without walls," said the architect.

Garden and House by Ryue Nishizawa

Gardens are interspersed with rooms on each of the four floors of the building, creating a screen of plants that mask the facade from the eyes of passing strangers. Glazed walls beyond protect the interior from the elements.

Garden and House by Ryue Nishizawa

"The entirety is a wall-less transparent building designed to provide an environment with maximum sunlight despite the dark site conditions," added the architect. "Every room, whether it is the living room, private room or the bathroom, has a garden of its own so that the residents may go outside to feel the breeze, read a book or cool off in the evening and enjoy an open environment in their daily life."

Garden and House by Ryue Nishizawa

Above: floor plans - click above for larger image and key

Staircases spiral up through the building, passing through circular openings in the thick concrete floor plates. A similar opening cuts through the roof, allowing taller plants to stretch through to the upper terrace.

Garden and House by Ryue Nishizawa

Above: west and north elevations

Bedrooms are located on the first and third floors and are separated from meeting and study areas with glass screens and curtains.

Ryue Nishizawa is one half of architectural partnership SANAA, which he runs alongside Kazuyo Sejima. The pair recently completed a new outpost of the Musée du Louvre in France, while other projects by the studio include the Rolex Learning Centre in Switzerland and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. See more architecture by SANAA.

Photography is by Iwan Baan.

  • bonsaiman

    I love the challenge of creating a house in a very tiny space and I have seen many charming Japanese examples. I wonder how is it to live in one. The gardens would surely help. Everybody should live in gardens.

    • One thing’s for sure: going up and down all those stairs would be good exercise. People would be healthier. So much the better.

  • I love the greenery on the lower floors but am not sure the design of the top floors is that well thought out. That railing on the top balcony would be great with kids and pets and the man standing there in the first picture is getting a blow dry from the AC units.

  • Love the palette of white, green and brown. Fantastic!

  • Paddy

    Christian Dimmer wrote a great review of Garden & House over at ADR (original article from Architectural Review Asia Pacific Magazine)

  • morgs96

    God this is good. Creates some wonderful spaces on such a restricted site. A few privacy issues with the neighbours though, with the position of the windows on either side. But it’s a lovely concept. Fantastic!

  • Steven Troll

    I feel sorry for the neighbours.

  • RXRK

    Each of those new Japanese houses make my brain bleed. So exotic!

  • Donkey

    Four metres wide is not that small. My house and many other small Victorian terraced houses across London have this footprint, just not the luxury of being able to expand four floors up.

  • rem

    The neighbours in the brick-clad building on the left must be so pissed. Love the architecture, but feel sorry for those poor bastards who now have a view to a blank wall, AC unit, side of a concrete slab.

    Hopefully some of them are SANAA enthusiasts and see this as a year-round architecture exhibition.

  • Concerned Citizen

    They just don’t get it, do they? A single guard rail that passed over a floor opening, instead of around the opening? Is this Samurai death by design?

  • Thomas

    There are so many problems that I don’t even know where to start. Sure it looks cool, but what about the heating and cooling? Privacy? Safety? Look at the roof railing. Really?

  • Softroom

    Maybe someone from Japan can enlighten us, but are the building regulations – in respect of protection from falling – really, really different over there? We quite frequently see (lethal looking) unguarded voids and stairs in these lovely Japanese houses.

    Maybe in the UK we just live in a nanny-state and we could learn from the Japanese experience – if so, presumably Japanese accident or litigation data suggests there isn’t a safety problem really. Or are the projects published instances where the safety features are removed “day two” for a better photo, after approval of the built works is given?

    • Jes

      Something I've ALWAYS wondered! Someone, please, enlighten us.

      • Desk

        Japan’s an aging population – no one’s having kids. That’s why. Adults aren’t so danger prone as kids are, and I don’t think they get inebriated in their homes.

  • Julien

    Isn't part of why SANAA intrigues us the way their buildings seem to exist in a completely different world, free of all of the rules that we encounter in our daily life?

    In a city with bitter winters, they constantly force the people living in their houses to live more or less outside. Handrails, light to make plants grow and privacy are all optional. It is hard to imagine a building like this, which seems to be blocking a large number of existing windows, could be built in the world as we know it. And yet here it is.

    It feels like a design from architecture school somehow made real with no compromise. A model blown up 100 fold. It confuses and excites. It makes us try and imagine the kind of person who could live in it, who would risk their life on the top floor to be warmed up by the air conditioning system.

  • Hannah

    I am not Japanese but I’ve been travelling through Japan, and they do have a different culture towards heating/cooling. Even the kindergartens are often unheated and they just put on more clothes. The same with their homes, often only one room at a time is heated in the winter.

    From the architecture I saw, both modern and traditional, it didn’t seem that they were at all occupied with the same regulations as we are for example in Denmark. I love to hate railings, and I loved the railing-less country that Japan is. When I asked about this non-railing situation one student once replied: “Well, just don’t go too close to the edge”.

  • Adriana

    Does anybody know the exact adress of that building? I’m going to Tokyo and I’d love to see it. Would be grateful for any information.

  • From Chile, congratulations for this beautiful and sustainable home. It is a great idea, thanks for sharing it.

    Romy Bernal Díaz <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  • Megan

    With the privacy issues and so on people were pointing out, there is a different attitude towards that in Japan as to what we in Western cultures have. They are all about allowing and bringing the public space into their homes and being more at one with the nature around them – bringing their architecture into their surrounding environment. They also have a very relaxed attitude towards what people do in the comfort of their own space; if someone wants to design a building a certain way, that's their business, not anybody elses. It's things like that which allow for amazing companies such as SANAA to design the spaces which they do.

  • John

    I would like to see this house after 3 years. If it will be still occupied. In most of SANAA buildings nobody wants to live for longer time, so they place there their trainees:) I love SANAA but there are too many question marks and lies about their designs.

    • Lexi Revellian

      Some poor soul is going to have to water all those plants in pots every single day. And water will drain out of the bottom of the pots on to all that pristine white.

      I have a large balcony with big plants, and trust me, this wouldn’t work. It looks fine now, with brand new plants. In a year?

  • ewr

    Hi, does anyone know where exactly this house is?
    I’d like to take a look by myself.

  • BongCastaneda

    WOW! Gee, no firewalls at all. In my country buildings this close must use firewalls with no openings.