Japanese studio Apollo Architects and Associates arranged the spaces of this tall, angular house in Tokyo to frame views of the nearby Skytree observation tower (+ slideshow).
Located on an irregularly shaped site at the end of a narrow street, the three-storey Alley house centres around a four-storey stair tower, leading residents to a roof terrace with a view across the city skyline.
Apollo Architects and Associates planned the residence for a family of four, adding bedrooms and bathrooms on the top and bottom floors, and sandwiching a large kitchen and dining room on the middle storey.
A split level creates a natural divide between the kitchen and family dining table, which is designed around a sunken space so that diners have to climb inside.
Large windows line this corner of the building to frame views of the 634-metre observation tower beyond. "People can relax while enjoying the gorgeous view of Tokyo Skytree," explained architect Satoshi Kurosaki.
A metal staircase rises up through the tower to connect the floors. More windows bring sunlight into this stairwell, plus open treads allow it to spread through the building.
On the ground floor, sliding doors open a guest bedroom out to the entrance hall, creating a multi-purpose reception room.
"By sitting on the edge of the intermediate space, a sense of unity with the entrance hall can be felt, and this reminds us of good old Japanese houses," said the architect.
A wooden frames gives the house its structure and is revealed by exposed ceiling beams on each floor.
The exterior is clad with galvanised steel and coloured brown to blend in with the surrounding buildings.
"The ceilings with exposed joists and the see-through stairs are lit up at night, and the exterior appears as a tower of light," added Kurosaki.
Apollo Architects & Associates has offices in Japan and China. Recent projects by the studio include a house with a long white staircase at the entrance and a narrow residence with a glazed ground-floor gallery.
Photography is by Masao Nishikawa.
Here's a project description from Apollo Architects & Associates:
A client for a house, of which I designed and supervised eight years ago, got married and bought a small lot near Tokyo Skytree, which is located in a place with a downtown atmosphere. Due to difficulty of construction within the small narrow site at the end of a narrow path, a wooden construction was chosen. Soft, dark brown galvanised steel exterior walls create a Japanese impression, and the house naturally blends into the old neighbourhood.
By using glass walls on the street side, indoor views include the surrounding environment. The ceilings with exposed joists and the see-through stairs are lit up at night, and the exterior appears as a tower of light. In addition to the large opening on the facade, the high window on the penthouse provides sufficient light to the interior, and these do not make one feel that the house is in a high density residential area.
Behind the large entrance earth floor, a small multipurpose space that can be used as a reception room was made. By sitting on the edge of the intermediate space, a sense of unity with the entrance hall can be felt, and this reminds us of good old Japanese houses. For the family room on the second floor, instead of chairs or a sofa, a hori-gotatsu (a sunken area for sitting around a built-in table) style table was designed where people can relax while enjoying the gorgeous view of Tokyo Skytree. A large U-shaped open kitchen allows the couple to cook authentic dishes together, and to welcome many guests. A step was made between the kitchen and the family room in order to add an accent and a rhythm to the small space, and indirect lighting creates an unusual impression. For the busy couple, the 'small cosmos' that enables them to be their natural selves is the exact ideal for their desired small house.
Location: Sumida ward, Tokyo
Typology: private housing
Lot area: 52.78 sqm
Builiding area 32.89 sqm
1F floor area 32.89 sqm
2F floor area 32.89 sqm
3F floor area 32.89 sqm
PH floor area 3.46 sqm
Total floor area 102.13 sqm
Structure engineers: Masaki Structure - Kenta Masaki
Facility engineers: Shimada Architects - Zenei Shimada
Construction: Kara Construction