Japan has very stringent building codes and high taxes on land, which means that most of the homes, especially in cities like Tokyo, get built on oddly-shaped lots. These are usually the result of existing plots of land getting further subdivided to accommodate several generations of a family.
This peculiarity of Japan’s housing market has also let to many unique and innovative architectural solutions. Such as this so-called Near House, which was designed by the local firm Mount Fuji Architects Studio for a middle-aged couple.
The home is comprised of two parts, and fits nicely into the interestingly shaped plot of land it stands on. The first part is a narrow “gatehouse” which is just 6.5 ft (2 m) wide at the entrance. Located behind it is the second part, namely the main house. The gatehouse portion serves as the entryway as well as a gallery and studio for the wife who is an artist. Above this, and accessible via a ladder, is the husband’s office and library. Everything within this space is in easy reach, or near, which is where the house got its name.
The gatehouse is separated from the main house by a small courtyard. The main part of the home is set partially into the ground, due to Japan’s strict guidelines on building height. The bedroom and bathroom are located in this partial basement section of the home, and the architects planted plenty of greenery around the large windows here to give a sense of sleeping and bathing outdoors in nature.
The second level of the main home features a large kitchen and living area. The interesting fixture in this part of the home is an archway which ties these areas together, provides storage space, and also serves as a structural element by holding up the roof. They used affordable and lightweight materials to construct the home, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF) paneling, and wood, which eliminated the need to use heavy machinery for the construction.
In Japan the land the house stands on is considered much more valuable than the home itself, which is why disposable and lightweight materials such as paper and wood are often used in construction. These can easily be recycled and scaled up or down.