Japanese architect Hiroshi Iguchi has once again shown us that greenhouses are more than just homes for plants and veggies. To demonstrate how humans can also benefit from spending time in these large cocoon-like structures, Iguchi has created a spectacular, yet peaceful eco commune. The Millennium City is located on donated open farmland in the Japanese region of Chiba. It consists of four large greenhouses that have been restructured to provide open, healthy living spaces. The commune offers city dwellers a chance to escape from the chaotic daily grind for just $50 a month.
Iguchi’s utopian experiment aims to provide an eco-friendly solution to Japan’s socially isolating and environmentally harmful housing situation. The eco glass village is actually the result of several workshops run by the Tokyo-based architect looking to create a practical solution that encourages mutually healthful coexistence between humans and nature. Iguchi explains, “Millennium City allows people to live closely together, yet in privacy, and enables them to enjoy a lifestyle in harmony with nature.”
In keeping with traditional Japanese minimalism, small two-story wooden “cubes” function as the living space inside the four transparent greenhouses. The top level is an enclosed space elevated on wooden stilts and requires a ladder to enter from the bottom level. Underneath, an open wooden platform hovers just above the greenhouse’s earthen floor. The spaces are not designated for specific use, which allows guests freedom and flexibility. For practical needs, one of the greenhouses is equipped with a communal kitchen and a separate pavilion houses a shared toilet and bathing facilities. Hot water is provided by solar panels made out of plastic bottles.
Accordingly, the peaceful utopian environment is also an earth friendly structure as well. Electricity is generated by solar panels, which provide sufficient light and heat. Additionally, interior temperatures are controlled by the surrounding plants and trees. As Iguchi explains, the entire project emphasizes healthy and ecological living long-term, “The fact that this one place facilitates so many different functions is in itself already ecological. The huts can always be recycled or reused, either by dismantling and reassembling them in a new location, or just by moving them intact.”
Especially intriguing is the communal support involved in its creation. Almost the entire project, with the exception of the greenhouse manufacturing costs, was made possible by volunteers. A 20-year lease for the farm land was donated by a project volunteer, who coincidentally presides over the Japanese Agricultural Association. The majority of the project’s materials were either gifted or donated, such as the platforms and their construction, building materials, furniture, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, the greenhouse trees, etc. With so much support, the cost to build and install the entire eco complex came to approximately $470,000.
Once more, that firm sense of community is prevalent in the commune’s daily activities that aim to enhance sociability. Millennium City guests are encouraged to take part in the many classes and events such as ecological agriculture courses, flower arranging, painting, etc.