26 October 2010

So it all started! M House demolition

Welcome to the construction site of M House - images courtesy of our Japan correspondence (aka builders on site)!

the existing house from the street. It will disappear by end of this week...

The site is located at Niigata, 2 hours north of Tokyo.

Winter season is characterised by heavy snow, so the building structure will need to be all up and sealed before the snow starts in December, in order to prevent delay in construction (if the building is sealed, builders can carry on working inside even during heavy snow).  The speed is unimaginable here in Australia... but it is industry standard in Japan to have timber structure (with site preparation and foundation all completed beforehand) up and sealed in 1 day - this is to maintain structural integrity of the timber by minimising exposure to weather.

builders knocking down the kitchen area

When we first presented the idea of a single storey house, to our surprise the clients reacted to - despite all the other things we thought they could have reacted to - having to sleep on ground floor.

Housing design market in Japan are largely taken over by the package house companies, typically building 2 storey houses on small lands; our clients grew up in one of the package houses and "going up stairs" was a ritual marking the act of "going to sleep".

After a long design process, the concept of sleeping on ground floor was finally intellectually accepted and agreed.  Our clients moved the family sleeping quarter from the upstair bedroom to the living room on ground floor, and slept on the floor for over 6 months in order to become accustomed to sleeping on ground floor.... that is when they realised that sleeping on ground floor is actually no different to sleeping on the level above.

upstair bedroom

wall finishes are taken down, exposing the timber structure underneath..no wall insulation was evident...no wonder it freezes during winter.

living room downstairs. The large south-facing window unfortunately does not enjoy a great outlook due to privacy concerns (it faces the street).

More than often, we found ourselves challenged by different expectations, assumptions, and behaviours; most of the time these challenges come from the most unsuspected areas, simply because of our individuality as human beings in personality, background, and culture.  The important thing as a design professional is to be logical in design approach and respectful to individualities, to ensure that we are doing the right thing for the purpose and the site.... and never lose sight of the big picture ...

We will talk a bit more about the actual design next time.

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