Yuusuke Karasawa's maze-like S House
has an entirely transparent facade


The exposed criss-crossing skeleton of this see-through house in Japan frames a labyrinth of wall-less rooms connected by over a dozen different staircases (+ slideshow).

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

Designed by Tokyo-based architect Yuusuke Karasawa, S House is a two-storey-high building broken up into five split levels, creating a series of evenly sized rooms that are connected by staircases rather than corridors.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

The plan of the building is a rectangular grid divided up into quarters that alternate between solid and void. This means that some floors contain two rooms that don't meet one another – joined only by the spaces above and below.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

The convoluted structure is a response to the increasingly complex nature of information networks like the internet, according to Karasawa, whose previous buildings include a house where angular cutaways create apertures through walls, floors and ceilings.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

"Our hope is that this complex, layered network space will become a new architectural form that captures the various activities borne out of today's informational society, where diversity and order are being demanded at the same time," said the architect.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

S House is located close to the train station in Satiama, a city on the outskirts of the Japanese capital. All four of its facades are glazed, so neighbours can see right through the building.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

The staggered floor plates protrude beyond the glass walls, connected by diagonal supports that relate to the positions of the various staircases inside the house.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

Some of these staircases appear to have been carved out of the volume, while others look like they have been fixed onto the various surfaces. As there are barely any internal walls, several are often visible at once.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

"The complicated structural logic is applied not just in the elevation but throughout the interior space as well, where the floors themselves entwine diagonally, with a void that looks out to the opposing space created at the centre of this complicated floor," said Karasawa.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

"Although this opposing space seen from the void appears to continue visually, one can only arrive at it by traveling through the complicated levels, and taking a drastic detour after moving to a different floor," he said.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

A solid white door leads from the main entrance, leading through to a reception room on the ground floor. A dining room is also located on this level, but residents have to go up through either the mezzanine kitchen or living room to access it.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

A master bedroom, bathroom and storage area occupy the lowest floor of the house, which is sunken below ground level by almost two metres.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

A guest bedroom and study can be found on opposite corners of the penultimate floor, while the uppermost level boasts a pair of secluded roof terraces.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

Karasawa used a steel frame to create the complex structure, which has a 50-square-metre footprint. Internal fittings were kept to a minimum, although oak flooring and hemp carpet were added to some rooms and white worktops were installed in the kitchen.

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa

Photography is by Koichi Torimura.

Project credits:

Architect: Yuusuke Karasawa Architects – Yuusuke Karasawa
Structural consultants: Alan Burden, Hiroaki Inukai,structural
General contractor: O'hara Architectural and Construction – Akira Ohara, Satoshi Kikuch

S House by Yuusuke Karasawa
Basement plan – click for larger image
S House by Yuusuke Karasawa
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
S House by Yuusuke Karasawa
Ground floor mezzanine plan – click for larger image
S House by Yuusuke Karasawa
First floor plan – click for larger image
S House by Yuusuke Karasawa
Roof plan – click for larger image
S House by Yuusuke Karasawa
Section one – click for larger image
S House by Yuusuke Karasawa
Section two – click for larger image
  • Wow… it is a really amazing project!
    I am pretty sure this transparent facade will be the next trend over there!
    Awesome stuff!

  • Felix Tannenbaum

    Where do you store the 50 gallon drums of glass cleaner? (It’s super neat looking though, I kid a little.)

  • Fred

    Only in Japan…

  • Someone still believes in Corbusier. This is an excellent example of the transparency our lives provide via government eavesdropping. We might as well all be living in glass houses.

    Practically, this is a nightmare. Cleaning, insulating, privacy, security, and sound are virtually unthought of. It is a fun study, and likely a costly one.

  • eb

    One of those… the Japanese! As slick and reduced that design splendour is (even if only theatrical), can anybody come up with a workable solution to the power line pollution so typical in Japan?

  • Rafael Reyes

    Ok so obviously this house is unliveable for anyone but exhibitionists, but I still find the project really very interesting. It’s the love child of Domino House, Farnsworth House and Villa Müller refined with that quirky elegance of Japanese architecture.

    Would be an amazing job to furnish and decorate it.

  • huma

    Interesting but not habitable.

    • mikey1

      That’s subjective. I couldn’t live in it simply because I would not subject people to that. but definitely one of the most interesting products Ive seen in housing.
      Just a thought – considering the cost of the house why not just go ahead and make the glass tint change for privacy when desired?

  • Elliot Morgan

    Infuriating to live in but fun for visitors!

  • Ben

    This house is fantastic; it is light, and yet solid. Wonderful.

  • MB

    Beautifully impractical.

  • Another guest

    They better look gorgeous AND be amazing in bed AND behave when indoors. We, the concerned neighbours, will be watching, forever.

  • spadestick

    Needs some curtains, maybe electronic opacity control…

  • Kim

    House for the physically challenged perhaps? Good exercise those stairs…

  • Jon Jorgensen

    Looks like split-level hell.

  • JesseCHall

    In a forest, fine. But in an alley? Why?

    • HintOfBrain

      Japanese alleys are inhabited by alley cats, and the people are just normal suburbanites, going about their daily lives and acting very Japanese. They occupy their time with culture, like flower arranging, handmade paper, manga, all sorts of hobbies to keep them content and thus prevent them from sinking into lurid instincts like looking into the private lives of their next-door neighbours.

  • Designers had their fun, took loads of photos and all. But now, the neighbourhood is taking back it’s multi-story car park.

  • Tokyo Buro

    The client is too rich and too vain for his or her own butt. To maintain the bloody while elephant will be a god sent money-maker for the cleaners, painters and laundry men washing copious amounts of white window curtains. That said, some one had to pay for this experiment and it is all good for stains and pigeons.

  • J-S G

    A very strange place to put a sculpture.

  • Michael Swanson

    Is Tokyo the ugliest city in the world? Every new Tokyo building you feature is set in an urban backwater, a bleak concrete desert. The streets are alleys of utility, poles and wires. No neighbourhoods, all city.

    • HintOfBrain

      That city is composed of mostly human-scale dwellings with unexpected cul-de-sacs, narrow and non-straight streets, which provide constant surprises. There are extremely few large, tall, blank brick or concrete walls. Every effort is made to make use of the tiniest of space in a quirky and interesting manner. The Japanese also excel at mixing residential spaces with business spaces. There is no black-and-white zoning regulations that designate certain neighbourhoods as one or the other. Why should they be separated?

      • phylliscoppolino

        That so-called house is a terrible waste of space in a city that has so little of it. It’s a silly, impractical project constructed just to show that it could be done; such a small amount of actual living space; such a waste of materials and natural resources; such a disconnect with nature; so dehumanising. It is merely an expensive sculptural, architectural experiment.

  • Romain_M

    The nevernude’s house.

  • I’d let you all watch!

    It could well be an awkward design to live with in those brief moments of passion!

  • Concerned Citizen

    First thought: too f*ing many stairs! And, isn’t Japan a magnet for earthquakes, tsunamis, and atomic bombs? How will this place survive the first tremor?

  • Deane Madsen
  • villainesta

    A diagram. Nothing more. And yeah, that’s that great view!

  • Kind of like when your lady returns from the hairdresser and you ask, “Why didn’t they finish.”

  • I’ve yet to have had the privilege of designing for exhibitionists, and this in tightly packed Japan of all places.

  • Ana Paola

    And not a theft was reported…

  • HateObama

    I can see this design in a rural setting but definitely not in an urban setting like here. I also question the vertical support structure! Sky-hooks maybe?

  • Su Vin

    Where do they have sex?

    • BVA

      They don’t.

    • mailinator

      As stated in the text and also clearly visible in section 1: “A master bedroom, bathroom and storage area occupy the lowest floor of the house, which is sunken below ground level by almost two metres.”

  • sam

    It’s shockingly beautiful in concept. But in reality not so much fun. I saw pictures of owner putting up curtain which totally defeats the original intended aesthetic. Like a lot of Japanese houses, by using illusion the house looks amazingly bigger than it really is, but once the furnitures is put into the house the illusion is completely gone when we can now clearly see the true scale of the tiny house. That is exactly why they took photos of the house without any furniture.

  • HintOfBrain

    The power lines add complexity to the urban fabric, be it visual or conceptual. Why rid of what is essentially an interesting aesthetic element? Ordered chaos is what makes Japanese aesthetics compelling. Focusing on a minor, irrelevant “nuisance” like that overlooks the bigger picture of Japanese urban design.

  • HintOfBrain

    The inhabitants would be exhibitionists had they believed people actually stare. The Japanese, if they are governed by anything, would be aesthetics and generally refined, controlled demeanours. No Japanese would risk ostracism from society by being caught swaying from the norm and stare. You’re just projecting your society’s values onto theirs, Rafael.

    • phylliscoppolino

      They couldn’t AVOID looking at the house, even just with their peripheral vision.

  • HintOfBrain

    According to who? Why would they spend nearly a lifetime’s income on a custom-designed house if it wasn’t habitable?

  • mikey

    I like the power line in to the structure. Fits it perfectly, like they bought it dropped it in place and plugged it in.

  • RobTenn

    When will some of these Japanese architects wake up and realise that architecture is not a game? That they are often designing houses that are too smart for their own good? A house like this would be perfectly habitable if the Japanese were not human beings, and if privacy and intimacy absolutely do not apply to them. But this is obviously not true for us human beings. So are these architects feeding their own egos, or are they actually serving their clients? Japanese houses are so unique and beautiful, but sometimes, they cross the threshold of what’s livable and practical.

  • floong

    A house for an anaemic, exhibitionist MC Escher fan?

  • Rob Moore

    Funny the master bedroom has a curtain rail track around the perimeter obviously intended for privacy. But no curtain fitted… Yet.

  • Balzac

    One of the least human-centered designs, it seems to exist as a testament to the architect’s CAD ability and to the materials, but where is the room for art, for private moments? Even the noise between mezzanines is unblocked so radios, TVs, conversations all compete. Is there any chance it will be cluttered with curtains, cats, and kids before someone just says, “that’s pointless” and replaces it?