"MINI STEP HOUSE" featured in designboom.com
This house design provides a sustainable living environment based on sensibilities of a rural Japanese house, yet introduced in a novel arrangement of circularly arranged spaces. Although the house does not incorporate technological attributes normally associated with many “eco” houses, it emphasizes the most fundamental principles of sustainable living: site planning to connect to the outside, recognition of the local climate, and living spaces based on intimate communication.
The site is in a planned suburban development of orderly arranged houses; the location of this house relative the site, however, breaks the common order through its location at the very rear of the site so that the front yard can accommodate a vegetable garden. The “genkan” foyer, connected to the garden via the covered garage and work space, greets one with an ample-sized utility space for gardening and a wash basin.
The planning of the house creates a spiraling arrangement of spaces that optimizes air circulation throughout the entire house. Although technically this is a 2-storey structure, the division between floors that typically exists was erased by actually creating 4 separate floor planes subtly divided by “mini” steps. This arrangement demonstrates that a gradual separation of rooms by half increments can maintain connections, and the chain effect of this creates a very connected living environment throughout the whole house.
A unique aspect of this program is the arrangement of rooms based on intimate family communication. The bedrooms are arranged along the living room space and very open via sliding screens, thus creating a sense of extension of the living space. Simply by shutting the screens one may have privacy, but the hope is that these doors left open create opportunities for closer communication between parents and children. To extend the feeling of space even further, there is a small study that protrudes from the master bedroom and looks over the dining space void. Accessible by ladder is a small play-space loft above the tatami room that overlooks all of the living spaces. Ultimately within this very small house all family members are given opportunities to find their own space, but because of subtle height differences and visual connections, one never feels complete separation.