Many in Japan are Building Homes with Wacky Architecture They May Never Be Able to ResellPosted: April 16, 2015
Japan’s Creative, Ephemeral Homes
Lucy Alexander writes: Would you buy a house that you knew would lose its value as years passed? That you would never be able to sell? That you might have to pay to demolish?
In Japan, this is the willing choice of many houseowners. In Western countries, a home is typically an investment that most people expect to one day sell at a profit. In Japan, a house is a consumer good that rapidly depreciates in value, like a car. Because Japanese house hunters prize new construction, they will pay a premium for land, but build their own home on it.
“People have greater creative license to express their own taste because they don’t need to consider resale value. There is a deep-set ephemeral attitude to housing here.”
— Alastair Townsend, co-founder of Bakoko, a Tokyo architectural practice
This model has one happy side-effect: a flourishing of some of the world’s most wonderfully bizarre architecture. You can live in a nest of tangled staircases designed to represent the Internet (named S-House), or inside plastic walls shaped like a Gothic arch (called Lucky Drops)—and only be concerned that it pleases you.
“People have greater creative license to express their own taste because they don’t need to consider resale value,” said Alastair Townsend, co-founder of Bakoko, a Tokyo architectural practice. “There is a deep-set ephemeral attitude to housing here.”
Japan’s Ministry of Finance defines the “service life” of a wooden house (92% of all detached homes) as being 22 years, though many homeowners stretch their stay.
Architecture in Japan is big business, with 24 architects for every 10,000 people, compared with 3.4 in the U.S., says the International Union of Architects. And Japanese often show extreme deference to experts such as architects. “Sometimes the clients don’t feel empowered to question an architect’s design,” said Mr. Townsend.
One of Mr. Townsend’s clients, Chiyomi Okamoto, 53, worked closely with the firm on her home’s details. She wanted a house that felt comfortable to her and to her Australia-born husband, Joe Gayton, 58, an exports manager for the Victorian Government Business Office in Tokyo.
They hired Bakoko to design a detached house in Onjuku, near Tokyo, in 2011. Their aim was “an Aussie beach shack” with traditional Japanese influences, Mr. Gayton said.
The couple spent ¥6 million, or nearly $50,000, on the land and about $233,000 on the building and fittings. Mr. Gayton said it took just nine months from planning to finish.
Ms. Okamoto dispensed with Japanese tradition and requested an open-plan kitchen for entertaining, rather than a formal tatami room. But she sought Japanese elements like the genkan, an area inside the front door where people leave their shoes, and a bathroom with tsubo-niwa, an enclosed garden, viewed from the bath.
The resulting home is a distinctive, asymmetrical, two-bedroom house, clad in Japanese cedar, resting some 300 yards from Onjuku’s surf beach. The 1,400-square-foot home has a sharply pitched roof for double-height living space….(read more)
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