House in Gakuenmae is a minimal home located in Nara, Japan, designed by Fujiwaramuro Architects. This terraced property in the foothills of the Gakuenmae district of Nara Prefecture faced several difficult conditions, including a retaining wall hemming the lot in on the north and south and a steep slope separating it from the road on the west side. The design work began with an inquiry from the clients as to whether this property, which had gone unsold for a long period, couldn’t be used to build a house. Since the wife loves to cook and often spends the whole day in the kitchen, the clients requested that the kitchen form the core of the house. They also wanted the house to have an outdoorsy atmosphere and parking for one car.
Creating a parking space posed a problem due to the elevation gap between the property and the road. At first, the architcts considered widening the area adjacent to the road to create a parking space and building a concrete retaining wall around the remaining, elevated portion of the property. However, the high cost of building such a wall prompted them to instead construct a gradual slope leading to the back of the property and gently grade the adjacent land. This created a large, gentle slope on the property, which inspired the image of a house formed by a large roof that continued the angle of the topography. A triangular pyramid bounded by the retaining wall on the north and the large roof became the living space.
Under the eaves where the roof is low, we located a doma entryway and living room (concrete-floored areas where shoes may be worn). In the center of the building, where the sloped ceiling is higher, we located the kitchen, with a dining room and second living room on either side. On the north (peak) side, the master bedroom and bathroom are on the first floor and the children’s room is on the second floor. Between the house and the retaining wall we added a deck as well as a private garden and area for doing DIY projects.
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