Row House (Azuma House)

Construction year: 1976
Address: 2 Chome-13-12 Sumiyoshi | OSAKA | Japan
Latitude/Longitude: 34.61052, 135.49231

Row House made throughout of exposed concrete replaced the middle unit of three row houses in a downtown district of Osaka. Ando, who sees himself as a fighter-architect, developed a number of bold proposals for small houses. Among those houses, the Row House in Sumiyoshi is his crowning achievement.

The facade

We see an axially symmetrical composition, an overall form having a gatehouse-like character and a doorway in a central location. In the design of the elevation Ando uses only two rectangular forms: the overall outline of the building, and the doorway. We can also see that the entire site has been divided longitudinally into three parts and that the courtyard too has been divided into three equal parts. Tripartition is applied to the building as a whole and echoed by the rhythm of long-short-long on the facade, namely, wall-doorway-wall.

In relation to the Environment

Ando’s treatment of nature in the city is something else that distinguishes his work. Confronted by the vulgar urban environment of downtown Osaka, he came to the conclusion that coexistence with nature was fundamental to human life. He proposed a new lifestyle in coexistence with nature, which is integrated into the dwelling. It can get extremely cold in winter, on rainy days an umbrella is needed to go to the toilet. Ando gave priority, not to some facile notion of convenience, but to being able to look up to sky and feel the wind. The courtyard of the Row House is a secluded space cut off from the commotion of the city; it is open only to the sky. It is a window, accepting light, wind and rain so that nature is able to seep into the spirit of the observer. The courtyard, made of concrete, glass and slate, reflects incident light and causes complex shadows. Matter has a psychological effect on the observer precisely because the absence of ornament invites extraordinary empathy.

The Social theme

The Row House has a social theme as well as a design theme. Ando introduces a concrete box amidst the dilapidated wooden row houses that crowd the central areas of Osaka and creates a highly self-sufficient living space inside that box. Ando ensures individual privacy, something traditional townhouses were unable to provide; he creates a residential space that enables modern individuals to develop. Row House in Sumiyoshi is an expression of Ando’s belief that the house is precisely the building type that can change society.

⇒ Architecture Guide to OSAKA
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