Located west of the the Japanese capital in Mitaka, the two-storey Ark house provides a home for a couple who work at a nearby university, and their two children.
Like many Japanese homeowners, the clients wanted a home that offers them both privacy and a connection to the outdoors. But they also requested separate quarters, allowing them to spend some of their time alone.
In response, Apollo Architects & Associates planned a house with an almost entirely symmetrical layout. This made it possible to create a pair of independent libraries on the ground floor, as well as two matching children's rooms upstairs.
There are also two courtyards, so every room in the building faces out onto a private outdoor space. Apollo used a similar tactic on a house for a surgeon in Chiba and a home for a surfer in Kanagawa.
According to architect and studio founder Satoshi Kurosaki, the symmetry creates a "distinct formality, like a church".
"A courtyard and a front yard are placed on the south and the north, and spaces are located symmetrically [around them]," he explained. "Our intention is to provide a living environment where one can feel the air outside from everywhere in the house."
"Each room is filled with soft light from the courtyard, and family members can feel each other's presence while concentrating on their works or studies," he added.
From the street, the house appears to have a rectilinear form because of the wall suspended around the front yard to create the first of the two courtyards. But it actually has a pitched roof that creates angled ceilings for rooms on the first floor.
Like another of Apollo's recent projects, a Canadian softwood referred to as SPF provides the roof's structure. The beams are arranged in pairs, intended to create a "bold rhythm".
"The name Ark comes from the form of the building, and its association with Noah's Ark," said Kurosaki, referring to the legendary boat from the bible.
The beams are visible in the open-plan space that functions as a living room, dining space and kitchen. Matching Lauan plywood was used for furniture and shelving, which are built into the walls on both sides of the room.
The second of the two courtyards is located beyond the living space, and has an ash tree at its centre. The two children's bedrooms both open out to a balcony positioned above the courtyard, where a spiral staircase leads up onto the roof.
The master bedroom is located on the ground floor, along with the bathrooms and extra storage areas.
Oak flooring runs throughout the house. Other details include a staircase of cantilevered wooden blocks, and a gridded bookshelf suspended overhead.
The house was completed in May 2015 and has an overall floor area of 102 square metres.
Photography is by Masao Nishikawa.
Architecture: Apollo Architects & Associates – Satoshi Kurosaki
Structural engineer: Masaki Structure – Kenta Masaki
Mechanical engineer: Naoki Matsumoto
Lighting design: Sirius Lighting Office