House & Restaurant designed by Junya Ishigami are contained within this mud-covered building, which was crafted by pouring concrete into holes in the ground.
This latest project by Junya Ishigami for a French restaurant owner located in the city of Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture in Japan now stands as an harmonious blend of a fine restaurant and a welcoming family home. The raw surfaces of the excavated space reflect the authenticity of the cuisine — this dialogue was a truly intentional, even while the unusual construction process uncovered new discoveries.
The project is the sculptural work of architecture suggests a naturally eroded landform, recalling the tunnels and rocky vaulting of subterranean caves, and expressing the familiar quality of roughness found in nature.
The architect elaborates: ‘The project is a residence and restaurant for a French restaurant owner. He is an old friend of mine, and he was the one who commissioned the Tables for a Restaurant. I was asked to design a building as ‘heavy’ as possible. ‘I want an architecture whose heaviness would increase with time,’ he said. ‘It cannot be artificially smooth but rather something with the roughness of nature. Authentic cuisines require such a place.’
The structure comprises a maze of cavernous spaces separated by arched openings and stalagmite-like columns, all crafted from concrete that is covered in mud. It was constructed by pouring concrete into holes dug in the ground, which acted as a textured mould. The surrounding soil was then removed to reveal its unusual form.
This construction method means that the building is positioned within the ground and concealed at street level, and takes on the curves and imperfections of the excavated site. In Ishigami's original design, the mud was due to be washed off the concrete after the site was fully excavated. However, after seeing the earth on the structure, he decided to leave it as a surface covering.
Three small courtyards separate the restaurant to the north and the private residence to the south of the site, but a passage through the central courtyard makes it possible to move seamlessly between the two. The restaurant seats five at the main counter, while 12 small tables are scattered throughout the large cavernous interior.
The similarly cave-like house has two bedrooms, and a large open space with a dining table and a sunken living area. The home’s small kitchen has also been lowered and the counter and sink are made out of polished poured concrete. All the gaps between the uneven structures were 3D-scanned to allow the precise making of window and door frames that would fit each individual opening. These were then caulked in place.
The project’s low, organic shape is a far cry from the surrounding, conventional family homes; and not just because the house is hidden, semi-buried into earth and hardly seen from above the ground. What is visible looks like an odd-shaped lake or perhaps an oversized painter’s palette, all rounded edges, holes and undulating forms.