'House before House' designed by Sou Fujimoto, is one of the four conceptual pavilions built by the energy company Tokyo Gas as part of the Sumika project.
The concept behind Sumika is to provide new and future-oriented residential units, buildings and a main pavilion that will use gas as their main source of energy.
“House before House”, by Sou Fujimoto is located in a residential area of Utsunomiya in Japan and accommodates between two and four people. The design is based on the concept that people live not just in indoors, but in the outdoor realm, too. In this experimental scheme, therefore, the architects did not understand the home just as a limited space; they developed their idea along the lines of a village structure, with individual “buildings”, open areas and stairways. Indoors and outdoors, the house and the garden, form a spatial continuum. This interpretation is both timeless and futuristic. It also reflects the Japanese tradition of the dwelling, in which one seeks to attain a harmony between natural and man-made things.
“Japanese people don’t care about resale value,” says the architect Sou Fujimoto, explaining why clients have allowed him to create houses that lack conventional versions of walls, ceilings or floors, and which require the skill of an acrobat to comfortably inhabit."
The house consists of ten cubes that are stacked on top of each other and scattered seemingly at random about a site only 163 m2 in area. This results in open as well as sheltered outdoor spaces. The individual volumes are reached and linked by staircases and ladders. The area at the point of in section between the most densely grouped white cubes has been developed as a living space, flanked by the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Separate access is provided to the other spaces.
The impression one has of a naturally grown environment is reinforced by the trees planted in compact boxes, in terraced areas that extend in a series of cascading steps, as well as in cavern-like external spaces between the boxes and stairs.The clarity of the built volumes corresponds to their prefabricated form of construction. The outer skin consists of steel sheeting welded to steel framing.
Integrated into the housing cubes are planting troughs for the trees. The boxes were placed in position by means of a crane. Internally, the steel walls were sprayed with insulating material and clad with plasterboard. Generous areas of glazing allow the cubes to be opened to the outdoor world. At these points, the light, finely dimensioned design of the steel staircases rising between the trees allows the occupants to discover the outdoor realm in ever new forms.