In only three months, eco-conscious Japanese architect Tono Mirai crafted a charming tiny timber structure that can be moved by truck. Dubbed the Red Container, the compact building was primarily designed as an exercise to promote Shinshu larch, a beautiful local larch species in the Saku area of Japan’s Nagano Prefecture that had long been overlooked because of its tendency to warp and twist. However, due to advancements in drying technology, says Mirai, Shinshu larch can now easily work in construction projects — as demonstrated by the stunning Red Container project.

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a compact timber home with a curved roof set against a green background with mountains.

Designed over the course of half a year and constructed in just three months, the minimalist Red Container dwelling can be moved by a four-ton truck. The prototype building, which measures just under 10 square meters (107 square feet), can adapt to a variety of functions, from a small mobile store to a tiny house, and can be custom made to order. The working prototype includes electricity, light fixtures and air conditioning, while its large operable windows facilitate natural ventilation. 

the interior of a timber structure with bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

Larch features prominently in the build — the project name is a nod to the natural reddish tones found in Shinshu larch — and shows up in the structural frame’s beams and columns as well as the walls, eaves and furnishings. The wood is left exposed so that users can appreciate the natural grain and craftsmanship from the local carpenter who used local, traditional methods to construct the timber interior. 

Related: This rammed earth passive house in Japan is shaped like a shell

the interior of a timber structure with bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling and a timber table on the left.

“In addition, a new blue larch that tends to give a dark and smooth impression, I tried a different expression such as blue material (color change material due to fungi) that is not normally used as the floor material, and 30 mm wideness larch material with unevenness is used to the inner wall,” Mirai explained in a statement. He also added an accent wall to the interior built of clay sourced from the local Kita-Aika village in Nagano. A twisted asphalt shingle roof tops off the building.

a sideview of a compact timber structure set against a background of trees and mountains. the roof is a dark asphalt color.

+ Tono Mirai

Photos by takeshi noguchi