Japanese Architecture

Unique Homes in Japan: Living as a Nomad in a Glass Treehouse

In this installment of the unique homes in Japan series, we feature one of Sou Fujimoto Architect‘s most radical residential works, the transparent jungle gym-like “House NA,” which was designed for a young couple in a quiet neighborhood in Nakano ward, Tokyo.

The concept for the house was based on the idea of living in a tree, as the clients asked for a home that would allow them to live as nomads in their own home. The spacious interior consists of 21 individual floor plates, all situated at various heights, allowing the house to be used flexibly: individuals can choose to be close or distributed across the house like birds perched on the various branches of a tree.

Inhabitants of the

Inhabitants of the House NA perched on different levels of the house. Photo: © Iwan Baan

The floor plates range in size from 1.95-sqm to 7.5-sqm (21 to 81 sqft) and are linked by a variety of stairs and ladders, some mixed and some movable. The varying levels of floor plates allow them to serve different functions, such as seating and work spaces, as well as circulation.

Sou Fujimoto writes, “The intriguing point of a tree is that these places are not hermetically isolated but are connected to one another in its unique relativity. To hear one’s voice from across and above, hopping over to another branch, a discussion taking place across branches by members from separate branches. These are some of the moments of richness encountered through such spatially dense living.”

Image via ArchDaily

Image via ArchDaily

Further, “The white steel-frame structure itself shares no resemblance to a tree. Yet the life lived and the moments experienced in this space is a contemporary adaptation of the richness once experienced by the ancient predecessors from the time when they inhabited trees. Such is an existence between city, architecture, furniture and the body, and is equally between nature and artificiality.”

Many elevations are created by the floor plates. Image via ArchDaily

Many elevations are created by the floor plates. Image via ArchDaily

You may wonder where the utilities are hidden in a transparent house with such a thin steel frame structure. Some of the floor plate are equipped with in-floor heating for the winter months. In the summer, the windows are the only source of ventilation and cooling but the openings were strategically placed to maximize air flow.

The different elevations allow the space to be used flexibly. Photo © Iwan Baan

The different elevations allow the space to be used flexibly. Photo © Iwan Baan

The HVAC and plumbing equipment, as well as storage and lateral bracing were placed in the thick, north-facing wall at the rear of the house. Lateral bracing is also provided by a full-height bookshelf and lightweight concrete panels integrated within the side elevations.

But can you have any real privacy in such a house?

Curtains were installed to provide temporary partitions that address the concern for privacy and separation.

See the video below for a day of living in the house.

You may also be interested in: Transparent Vertical Garden House in Tokyo