Small Box House by Akasaka Shinichiro Atelier


The residence is built on the western hillside of Mt. Moiwa, overlooking the city of Sapporo.  Although, being the 5th largest city in Japan, the cumulative amount of snow cover in the winter season exceeds 6 meters.

From the casual lifestyle of the client and his wife, and also the request to have a part of the house turn into a cafe in the future, we aimed to create a space to be flexible to support various events, such as the new birth of a child or starting a new cafe, where various life-scenes exist with reasonable distances to each other inside a simple void, like a barn.

A large white birch tree, in the corner of this site, was the biggest reason why the clients chose this location.  Before the designing process, we walked around the tree for the site survey.  We found out that the tree was quite high, with many fine branches.  The leaves grew thick on the branches spreading horizontally, and hanging its heads down.  Although this white birch tree seems to be one big group from a distance, when you stand at the base of the trunk, the height of leaves and branches covering overhead changes as you move your view point.  In this simple box-shaped structure, we wanted to develop a space which can cause the activities, similar to have the height makes you want to sit and read, or to jump and touch the branches.

The form of the building has a simple shape having only the corner cut off from a hexahedron block.  The glass was set in the cut to become an opening, and also a terrace was built.  Through this limited opening, it was designed to enhance the existence of trees in a site and ridge line of Mt.Moiwa spreads behind. Having neither obvious partitions, nor the functional sorting between floors, inside of the house has a flexible space configurations which can also add a loft if needed.  It is to fulfill their current life style and also to correspond starting a cafe in the future.

The floor, handrails, walls, and also curtains, passing the light through, exist lightly inside each life scenes, so the indication of the residents flow continuously without any distraction.  At inside designed spaciously having various heights in the ceiling, along with calculated window positioning and lighting, various expressions can be developed internally, which cannot be imagined from the simple formed exterior.  Such changes of expression synchronizing the seasons and time, lead the residents to find a suitable space in this small box.

This client have a sense of enjoying some negative aspects; for most people, as positive elements to enrich the daily life, such as siding deteriorations, limited equipments and materials due to the low cost, and an hard work of snow removal during the winter.

Architects: Akasaka Shinichiro Atelier
Project name: Small Box House
Use: Housing
Location: Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
Site area: 345㎡
Building area: 57㎡
Gross floor area: 93㎡
Design period: 2008 ~ 2009
Construction period: 2009
Photographer: Koji Sakai

Learn more about: