Gallery: SHIGERU BAN CURTAIN WALL HOUSE

 

In architect-speak, a curtain wall refers to any facade- commonly glass- that provides no structural or load-bearing capacity for the building. But leave it to the genius of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban to interpret this term literally, poetically employing an actual curtain as facade wall. The result is not only breathtakingly stunning, but a great example of context-based green design that embraces its natural landscape (talk about passive cooling!). The Curtain Wall House demonstrates a striking amalgamation of simplicity, beauty, old, and new, combining “contemporary materials in new interpretations of traditional Japanese styles.”

The curtain hangs the length of two stories, framing an indoor loggia-type space when drawn, and revealing a picturesque outdoor patio when the curtain is pulled back. Behind the curtain, a set of sliding glass wall panels works with the curtain to create a completely insulated and private interior. The curtain as architectural element refers back to traditional Japanese design elements such as shoji and sudare screens, and fusuma doors common within the traditional Japanese house. We love the simple solution that is both architectural and artistic, serving as a moving, engaging element that encourages natural air flow and ventilation.

While Shigeru Ban is probably best known for his paper tube structures, the self-proclaimed “paper architect” also has a slew of gorgeously simple and effortlessly green architectural projects under his belt, each of which show a sensitivity to context, nature, and client.

+ Shigeru Ban

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42 Comments

  1. Laurabeth4 September 12, 2010 at 10:37 am

    This is a really interesting house, but while the curtains are an interesting touch and have a unique look, I think the exterior curtains are impractical. While I love the look of a glass curtain wall, I can see a number of issues with curtains on the outside of a building. Before doing anything like this on a home, it is important to do your research on the subject. I usually go to McGraw Hill\\\\\\\’s Sweets Directory to get the information I need for any kind of construction project. Though I now currently work for them, I use them myself because they honestly offer a lot of important information on the construction products and manufacturers that are available, in addition to some really helpful CAD details that you can download. I definitely recommend them.

  2. xinni August 19, 2008 at 9:37 am

    can somebody compare application of Le Corbusier’s ‘five points towards a new architecture’ in Villa Savoye and its application of these points with shigeru ban’s curtain wall house? any similiarities and differences?

  3. juzakid August 18, 2008 at 1:12 am

    good design..but what the connection between the curtain and the green design?? would it be need extra money to wash the fabric

  4. stace May 30, 2008 at 7:06 am

    hi there, after thoroughly reading the article about the \’curtain wall house\’ and the comments people have left, I am astonished at hw many people have been so blind to such an innovative and refreshing design! I have only come across Shigeru Ban in the last few weeks or so (as naive as that sounds, I am studying interior design and so still learning about architects an artists.) after visiting an exhibition called \’Skin and Bones, Parallel practices in Fashion and Architecture\’. To give you a quick explanation; it is about the relationship between fashion and architecture and how they have echoed each other in form and appearance. It also demonstrates how architects are adapting to strategies commonly used in dressmaking, such as folding, draping, weaving etc. I was very impressed by the overall exhibition and could see the similarities. (if any of you are interested, simply enter the title of the exhibition into a search engine).
    I am going off the point. I was inspired by Bans design and have since been on his website and checked other housing. From looking at his work I have the understanding that he likes to create a sense of freedom yet with an element of safety and warmth. He has demonstrated this on the Curtain wall house. I hope you guys can see that. Why does a house have to look like all the rest? Who says you cant have your curtains on the outside of your house. I love it and I think the concept is brilliant, I like the fact on a windy day the curtain could be tied down, let loose or simply tied back, Or on a sunny day you can completely open your house to the outdoors, or open all curtains and let the sunshine beam in, or let the rain pitter patter. Its all about choice and adapting to different environments!!!
    I would really be interested in seeing what it looks like now!!!

    stace

  5. ArchitectsAnswer March 17, 2008 at 6:35 am

    There seems to be a lot of questioning on the technical characteristics of this design and although not entirely misguided, I would have to say that they are not very well founded. As architects, we have to prescribe to building codes that involve everything from safety criteria such as fire and burglary to structural concerns and to environmental aspects such as weather protection and efficiency. There is no practicing architect that would purposely jeopardize their professional career by simply not thinking about these very basic concerns. Do dont worry, everything has been thought of to the ability of the architect and Shigeru Ban has more than proven his competency. Keep in mind that the clients are probably very wealthy so much attention has been paid to providing the best and strongest materials for every category. Those are not back porch sliding windows and that is not indoor curtain material…both of those by themselves are probably worth more than many people’s homes and definitely more than their car! (sad but true…)

  6. Dustin June 23, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    The house only uses curtains as a device to control the level of privacy indoors. the house is much like phillip johnson’s glass house, in that it is completely surrounded in glass facade. However, Johnson’s glass house is completely free of any overhand blocking sun or stopping passive solar heat gain..Shigeru pulled out the overhangs to enclose an outdoor terrace, but at the same time it completely protects the glass curtainwall from passive solar. That is how it is green. It may be made of glass, but it is operable glass that never receives direct sunlight. You have to think of the system of curtains and glass as a system, each element is there for a specific reason.

  7. Ana June 21, 2007 at 11:45 am

    The only problem I have with this is the surroundings, but that’s simply because I envision something as amazing as this particular house on a green, grassy hill.
    A lot of you have mentioned worries like rain, wind and fire hazard… That’s being incredibly naïve. The curtains can clearly be hidden away when they’re pulled back – so rain and wind won’t be a problem anymore – and there’re a lot of materials that have are a fire retardant treatment – the curtain doesn’t even have to be made of cloth (think outside the box for a moment…). If the glass is tinted or reflective it will give people the privacy they need when the rain or wind require the curtain to be pulled back. The concept of the curtain was for a visual effect as well as the ultimate eco-friendly cooling device, it was never designed to be a wall and none ever said you couldn’t set up some curtains on the inside (though it would ruin the purpose of the exterior curtain if you did)– it’s more than obvious the architect thought this over carefully. The house and the concept work, but as in all art, architecture is a question of taste.

  8. Chris June 19, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Fire hazard… ’nuff said.

  9. Panda June 19, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    This is pretty much awesome. During the day you can leave open the curtains and glass walls, and enjoy the fresh air. And during the night you can close them. Shigeru Ban is a smart person, I’m sure he thought of everything. I wonder how much it costs not only to buy the house, but for airconditioning. If your house is half open often, would you turn off the A/C?

  10. fenomanalogy May 26, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    I think I read somewhere that the clients for this house have lived on this site for many years—it’s actually an inherited family property. Given the deep roots of the family on this corner, perhaps the extreme open quality of the house expresses a closeness between the family and neighbourhood, along with all the other reasons mentioned for the large curtains. There is a certain intimacy between the open plan and the narrow streets. That might help to explain why the clients would build this design in the first place.

    I always thought this was a lovely house. Not everyone could live in it, for sure, but it’s a spectacular idea and elegantly executed.

  11. Paul Morra May 26, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Jill

    Sorry you feel dissed. As indicated in my original post I’m a big fan of his work. I’ve always liked this project and merely asked “why show it now”, as I was curious if there was new info regarding the project.

    Also, with regards to people not fully understanding or reading the articles before posting – that seems to happen all the time here.
    There was an article a week or so ago re. a wind powered skyscraper, with rotating floors within which the writer commented that one would expect to see this in Dubai, but was in fact being proposed for Chicago.
    Nearly every comment was negative and many referencing the project being built in Dubai, which if you read the article it clearly wasn’t.
    I for one don’t want to be spoon fed facts so please don’t consider that an option when writing future articles.

    You love the project, as many of us do also. Unfortunately the first comments were negative, it happens.
    Please continue the good work.

    PaulS

    “Do any of them call for Shigeru Ban architects (and other architects who design grand spaces) to design housing that might be more affordable to more Japanese?”

    Ban doesn’t just design “grand” spaces.
    Ban has done extensive work with disaster relief / emergency shelter housing.
    I believe he began with a paper tybe prototype shelter which was used during the earthquake in Kobe in ’94, and if I’m not mistaken he’s furthered the concept and has implimented emergency shelters during many such unfortunate circumstances since then, all over the world.

  12. mark May 26, 2007 at 8:05 am

    the comments are 10 times longer than the post. Shigeru Ban- a lot of his work would be difficult to live in. Typhoons are a big problem in Tokyo- I know i live on the 8th floor and even with glass doors we get rain inside sometimes. Lucky this house is concrete because with huge sails you would be asking for trouble. We have shoji screens just inside the glass doors to block excessive sun and create a barrier from wheather. In ramen and other shops store owners use a similar sytem to block sunlight from entering the shop. They tie bolders to the bottoms of the curtains. If you have spent any time in Japan you would understand his design. I don’t know if it is all that creative to me. He just took a familiar material in Japan- concrete (used a lot by Ando) and Japanese traditional elements and made it bigger. I did a similar set up at my wedding with Tafuda- to hide some of the unsightly elements of the property and slanted them outward away from the glass doors. We then filled the space under them with paper flowers hand made by friends and family. That way they were able to get to know each other while making them.

  13. royalestel May 25, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    touchy touchy

  14. Nick Simpson May 25, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Ah well it doesn’t really matter. You guys that side of the pond do seem a bit tetchy though, something in the weather? Anyway, let’s all move on, we’re all pulling in a similar direction here after all

  15. Richie May 25, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Nick Simpson’s post refers to a ‘glass curtain wall’. Well that isn’t so. The glass walls used in this design are single storey sliding glass walls that possibly reference ‘Shoji & Sudara screen and fusuma doors’, as Emily’s writing indicates. There’s obviously been a lot of confusion about these glass walls. My earlier post indicated that I thought that the glass walls were 2 stories tall and therefore required motors to move them. Silly me ! The exploded diagram that appears when you click on highlighted phrase ‘the curtain wall house’ , reveals that each floor has its own set of siding glass walls. (in white epoxy coated metal frames, I’d imagine ?)

    Emily’s article mentions that there are glass walls. However, in the sentence immediatelty following that mention (#3, para 2), she possibly confuses the issue by saying: “The curtain as architectural element refers back to traditional Japanese design elements such as shoji and Sudare screens, and fusuma doors common with the traditional Japanese house’

    If Emily would have said: “The Curtain AND the interior sliding glass walls (not shown) BOTH refer back to traditional Japanese design elements such as shoiji and sudare screens, and fusuma doors common with the traditional Japanese house.”… maybe all this confusion could have been avoided ? Inhabitat is a great blog. Please keep up the great work !

  16. Wendy May 24, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Nick, believe me, that thought had occurred to me!

    Maybe I should have written “It has become apparent as a result of reading some of the comments written by the less-informed (ie less spoon-fed), that some of us need to be spoon-fed!”

    I’m glad I’m not a writer, that’s all I can say.

  17. Emily Pilloton Emily May 24, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Royalestel,

    As the writer of the post, I’d like to respond to your comment that reads: “If five commentors in a row didn’t catch that there are glass walls in addition to the curtain, it’s the fault of the writer, not the reader.”

    Perhaps your use of the term “reader” is faulty, as clearly people are not actually reading the post, which clearly states:

    “Behind the curtain, a set of sliding glass wall panels works with the curtain to create a completely insulated and private interior.”

    I’m not sure how that statement is unclear or implies that there are no glass walls. I would encourage all of our readers to actually READ the post in its entirety before criticizing the design and/or our writing/reporting skills.

    Emily

  18. Chenell May 24, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Royal,

    No offense, but it is VERY clear. It’s an outright statement at the beginning of the second paragraph, second sentence. It is not implied, or inferred. It is clearly stated. I don’t think “readers” missed it. I think they skimmed the first paragraph and posted without reading further.

    As politely as your comment is worded, it is actually insulting. By your logic, how do you explain that while 5 readers didn’t get that there were glass walls, most did? I would call THAT the fault of the reader. Neither of us have any way of knowing how many people have read or seen this blog without comment. I got it the first time, so did the friend who forwarded me the link. I was annoyed, like Jill, that the obvious had to be explained over and over.

    With all due respect.

  19. Chenell May 24, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    I agree 100% with Jill. You don’t HAVE to read every blog on the internet thoroughly, but if you are going to post a comment, you should make sure you understand the concept, not just glance at the photos. It says in the original post that there are glass walls. Also, why would you assume that an architect would push something that couldn’t be rained on??!! Common sense…(though through all the silly comments about mosquitos and burglary and such, I can at least see Clara’s point.)

    I do happen to like it, I would happily live there (if only I could afford too), but I can certainly see why someone else wouldn’t. The point of my comment is really to second Jill. READ first, comment later!

    Also…people, people, people! Be NICE. Why all the nasty sarcasm? Save it for someone who deserves it…like members of the White House Administration.

  20. royalestel May 24, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Hey there, Jill, If five commentors in a row didn’t catch that there are glass walls in addition to the curtain, it’s the fault of the writer, not the reader. If just one reader misses that fact, it’s the fault of the reader. Don’t take it badly, use it to improve your work.

    But anyway, sure enough I missed that fact that there are indeed glass walls. Knowing that fact, I have nothing negative to say about this design, however, pointing out to your readers all the advantages and versatility of the sail-taught curtains would be helpful.

    Lastly, please don’t feel any need to post this. Just a hopefully helpful comment.

    With much affection and appreciation for the site,

    Royal

  21. Nick Simpson May 24, 2007 at 10:19 am

    I think the point is that it’s innovative. If nothing else Ban’s architecture often has a large social sustainability agenda. Besides, when you can open up two sides of your house you can generally stop worrying about the need for air conditioning/cooling…

  22. what? May 24, 2007 at 10:13 am

    Can somebody explain how sustainable and green this building is?

  23. Nick Simpson May 24, 2007 at 7:50 am

    If it helps Jill, I love this house, along with most of Ban’s work. He’s one of only a few great humane architects out there. Obviously his style is somewhat different, but it didn’t suprise me whatsoever to see him create an exhibition on Alvar Aalto, possibly the other great humanist that springs to mind.

    And Wendy – I don’t mean to be rude but I’d like to think most people wouldn’t need to be spoon-fed the fact that a glass curtain wall would keep out wind, mosquitos, intruders etc. It’s a WALL.

  24. PaulS. May 24, 2007 at 2:47 am

    I’ve looked at the Shigeru Ban architects site and his/their works are glorious. I’m also aware that I’m looking at those buildings through American born and raised eyes. We like things big, open, glorious, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the National Mall in Washington D.C. Many if not most of the Ban works are in Japan, a place where, especially in Tokyo, living space is expensive and often hard to find. I’ve never been there but from what I see on TV, books, internet, the majority of Japanese live in less personal space and material abundance than the majority of Americans. So I wonder, how do Shigeru’s countrymen regard his works? Do any of them call for Shigeru Ban architects (and other architects who design grand spaces) to design housing that might be more affordable to more Japanese? (On their website, the “Housing at Shakujii Park” is an apartment complex, apparently the only one.) Does Japanese society have great divisions between economic classes that might help or hinder architect’s attempts to democratize and popularize their higher concept structures? Architecture is a great international language but behind are all the various cultural characteristics that give the people of Earth different world views and different experiences of life. Isn’t that cool?

  25. Brad May 23, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    I love this design… what an experience. And the mosquitoes/heat/rain/sound would be a non-issue with the INTERIOR GLASS WALLS. This adds a huge amount of flexibility with outside spaces that a lot of the newer, greener, “outside spaces as interior space purposes” flowing home design of late have not accounted for–application in a true urban setting. I love the curtains! Thanks for being the voice of reason, Inhabitat and Jill. Shigeru is brilliant.

  26. Wendy May 23, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    PS – I realise that Emily mentioned the glass walls in her article – but even just specifically saying that the glass walls would keep out the wind and intruders (rather than leaving us to make that link ourselves), would have stymied many of the criticisms. Yes, we need to be spoon-fed!

  27. Wendy May 23, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Like Celeste, I’m wondering what this curtain house looks like now? Have the curtains needed much replacing? Are they still white? Was noise a problem?

    Jill, I think the negativity stems from the overwhelming positivity of the post… which is something that crops up now and again in Inhabitat. Some articles tend to dwell on a high handed concept, and gloss over (or worse, not mention) quite obvious negatives, practicalities or concerns, so that the writer of the article comes across as naive – which you guys aren’t!

    People are just supplying the critical discourse that the original article does not supply. As Emily’s reply indicates, you have adressed the negatives already in your minds, but it is just not reflected in the article. So please, give us some more criticism in future? Those articles are the ones I most enjoy, where the goods are applauded and the bads are addressed.

  28. Campers May 23, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    I would rather go camping than living in this house.

  29. Emily Pilloton Emily May 23, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    I think the beauty of this design is the blurring of indoor and outdoor space, which ironically seems to be the thing you all are so averse to. If anything, it’s a complement to Shigeru Ban, who really makes us think about living in nature and not closing ourselves off so rigidly to the outside elements. So instead of being overly-practical, wondering about mosquitoes, rain, and burglaries (all valid concerns which are really a moot point because of the glazed walls that can be drawn….), I think we should all appreciate this house for a conceptual project that makes us rethink what a “house” really is and could be. And Celeste, I personally would LOVE to live in this house. And I can think of dozens of other people who would too.

  30. Celeste May 23, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    First, I started my first comment by saying that it was clever and beautiful, so that is positive. Second, I think you meant to accuse us of being ‘presumptuous’ (i.e., presuming that concerns like wind, etc., had not been met), not ‘literal’ (i.e., taking the house to actually meant to be lived in).

    Since the house is now 9 years old, can we find out how the owners have liked living in it? I for one would be interested in how this has worked out.

    Celeste

  31. Jill Fehrenbacher Jill May 23, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Celeste-

    What I meant by “being a bit too literal” is that every commentor is jumping to conclusions and assuming there is just a curtain and nothing else to protect against the elements. No-one is reading the fine-print to see that all of their questions are already answered in the post we wrote. How many more times do I need to explain to each commentor that THERE IS AN INTERIOR GLASS WALL!

    This answers the rain comment (its durable outdoor fabric, btw), as well as Lindsey’s comment about the curtains flapping around. If this commentor had taken the time to look at the photo of the curtains tied down, she would see that the fabric call be pulled taut in the wind like a sail.

    LOOK AT THE PHOTOS AND READ THE DETAILS PEOPLE! I can assue you Shigeru Ban has thought about wind issues, rain issues, safety issues and mosquitos.

    Criticism of a design is fine, but frankly its annoying to have absolutely not a single positive comment, and to deal with a barrage of criticisms that the commentors would see have already been addressed if they had just taken the time to read more closely.

    Its also frustrating that there is not a single positive comment on this post – on a design that is totally brilliant, inovative, and beautiful. I can’t believe not a single person likes this design, and everyone is just whining about the wind and mosquitos. Everyone is so negative here….Will the positive people please step up for a change?

  32. Celeste May 23, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Jill,

    I don’t mean to make you even more defensive, really I don’t, but what do you mean by we are being too literal? Do you mean that it isn’t ‘really’ a house? or no one is ‘really’ meant to live in it? or those aren’t ‘really’ curtains? Your argument about the glass wall, and all the practicality that they involve, implies that we are supposed to take the house literally.

    Celeste

  33. lindsey May 23, 2007 at 11:25 am

    i’m more curious about how seriously annoying those curtains must be on even a mildly windy day (nothing like the sound of heavyweight canvas going *whap* *whap* *whap* in the wind). i appreciate the concept, and fully recognize the importance of ‘out there’ design in order to bring forward the rest of the boring architectural world, but this really seems more appropriate for a pavilion than a real residence. clients sign off on a lot of things, but that doesn’t make it a good house. makes for beautiful pictures though, doesn’t it?

  34. Richie May 23, 2007 at 10:25 am

    Dear Jill,

    I’ve been a fan of Shigeru Ban for some time now. My favorite house of his is the ‘PC Pile House’ located near Mt. Fuji, Japan ( http://www.shigerubanarchitects.com/SBA_WORKS/SBA_HOUSES/SBA_HOUSES_10/SBA_Houses_10.html ). The ‘Curtain House’ and ‘PC House’ are similar in design except that the ‘Curtain House’ has 2 stories, is larger, has a wider – 2 sided – balcony AND has that 2 storey tall curtain. I don’t know why this is… but ever since I first saw photos of the ‘Curtain House’, I was never aware that there were glass walls, or more specifically — sliding glass walls in it’s design ! AND… none of the photos included in this post helped me to see this detail either.

    After reading your response to other post-ers… I was able to see that in the bottom left photo of the grouping of 4… that there could be a hint of some greenish glass at the extreme left margin.

    Before your reply, in any picture I’d seen of this dwelling, these sliding glass walls were never visible ! And since I was never a fan of this particular design… I guess I never looked close enough, or read up on it’s design particulars, to learn of this feature.

    Now all thisbeing said… and as unique as this design is… I think 2 storey tall glass walls are a poor choice, as they would seem to require heavy motors to move them. I also think that ostentatiousness is a big weaknes in architecture. The whole: ‘Hey Everybody… LOOK AT ME !!!’ thing in architecture really turns me off.

    This ‘Curtain House’ has ostentatiousness in spades.

    So to wrap up, Shigeru Ban is one of my favorite architects of all time. That said, I’ve never been a fan of the ‘Curtain House’. Regardless… thank you for clarifying that this design is more ‘sane’ than I’d previously thought… because it does indeed have sliding glass walls ! (I just don’t know how I missed that detail previously)

  35. ck May 23, 2007 at 9:14 am

    and when it rains?

  36. Jill Fehrenbacher Jill May 22, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    I think you all are being a bit too literal here. Consider the fact that Shigeru Ban is a world famous architect and I think he knows how to build houses that are both insulated and resistant to burglars. To answer your critiques specifically:

    1. Royalstel – this house was commissioned for its owners. Since the owners specifically signed off on this unusual design, I think it’s seriously unlikely that they would devalue their house so much by getting rid of the curtain. And the house HAS GLASS WALLS inside the curtain already.

    2. Sean – The house has secure sliding glass doors inside the curtains. It is also raised 8 or 10 feet above street level. Finally, Japan has really low rates of crime.

    3. Graig- AGAIN the house has an inner sliding glass wall system. Did none of you notice this in the post? That will protect against mosquitoes, and will also help with insulation. We personally think this is one of the most brilliant home designs of the last 20 years.

    4. Paul – yes, its not new, but we love this project and thought we’d highlight Shigeru Ban since he was recently written up in the New York Times.

  37. graig sterling May 22, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    i never had the pleasure of visiting japan but isn’t there any mosquitoes in beautiful Tokyo? and when the night time comes what does one do when one want to do it,does one as to become as exhibitionist OR SUFFOCATE?.With the curtain pulled for privacy ,without class insulation the air conditioning bill must catastrophic. I am a lover and some would say a apologist for modern and innovative architecture but this one is a FUMBLE!

  38. Paul Morra May 22, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Shigeru Ban is nothing short of brilliant. He’s by far one of my favorite architects, but why show this here now?
    This project was completed in 1995.
    He’s done many other intersting projects since then, and not all with paper tubes.

  39. Sean May 22, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    I get the feeling that architects have never had their home burgled.

  40. royalestel May 22, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Yup, owner #1 will install glass walls I betcha.

  41. Clara May 22, 2007 at 11:04 am

    That’s alot of fabric to wash! And would I need to make an extra set?

  42. Celeste May 22, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Clever and beautiful, sure, but would anyone actually want to live in this house? I wouldn’t.

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