The line between nature and architecture is often blurred in Japan to beautiful effect. Japanese architect Takashi Okuno practices this kind of nature-fused architecture with Hiiragi’s House, a modern Japanese-style residence built around a courtyard and old tree that the client’s family has tended to for generations. Located in the Ehime Prefecture, the house is minimally decorated and built with large expanses of glass to focus the eye on the use of simple, natural materials and courtyard views.
Named after the venerated generations-old tree, Hiiragi’s House was built to wrap around a mature hiiragi (Japanese for ‘holly osmanthus’ that’s not seen in the photographs due the tree’s “recuperation”). The architect highlighted the importance of the tree by making the courtyard visible from nearly every room in the home, including the entrance hallway. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors frame views of the courtyard from the open-plan living room, where a wood-burning stove visually delineates the lounge from the kitchen and dining area.
Environmentally friendly practices were also put into place. Rather than solely rely on fans for cooling, natural ventilation is optimized, as is the stack effect, where cool outside air is pulled into the double-height living room and hot air exits through clerestory windows on the second floor. Rain chains collect rainwater runoff from the roof, while cellulose fiber is used for heat insulation. The architect also stressed the use of natural materials throughout the building to create a healthy and welcoming environment, seen from the solid timber framing and straw-floor tatami mats to washi-paper screens and diatomaceous earth used as a finishing material.
Images by Shigeo Ogawa