The project is a residence/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.
Architects: junya ishigami + associates
Area : 270 m²
Year : 2022
Manufacturers : Akita Kensetsu Co., Ltd.
Structural Engineering : Jun Sato Structural Engineers
Lighting Design : Junya Ishigami+associates
Interior Design : Junya Ishigami+associates
Lighting Advisor : Izumi Okayasu Lighting Design
MEP Contractor : Echo Mechanical Plumber
Landscape Contractor : SOLSO
Glass Contractor : Meiji Glass Company Limited, Kensuke Kashihara
Authentic cuisines require such a place.” He also told me that “it has to look as if it has been there and will continue to be there for the longest time.” His idea was to create a brand-new long-established restaurant. He was longing for something that is both and a restaurant, something he could pass on to his children and grandchildren. Now, he invites guests he would invite friends to his house, and with someone special, he would let them into the living room or even stay overnight.
When the restaurant is closed, the hall serves as a place for the family to spend time or for the children to study. The plan is arranged with the restaurant on the north and the residence on the south.
To go back and forth between the spaces, they can walk through any one of the three courtyards that separate them.
In terms of construction, we conceived a process of constantly sharing, accepting, and referencing the un-precisions and accidents that occurred on the site to create an architecture that internalizes natural distortions and uncertainties. More specifically, we dug a hole in the ground to pour concrete, excavated the volume, and fixed glasses to create interior space.
First, a mass model that went through countless modifications was converted into 3D data. The 3D coordinate data was then input into a total station (TS) survey instrument to determine the points utilizing a navigation system for pile driving.
At the same time, construction workers dug the hole manually for precision while constantly confirming the position and shape on an iPad. Unexpected factors such as growing grass, soil collapsing, or errors due to manual labor were tolerated as much as possible.
When the structure was excavated after concrete solidification, it was caked with mud. With the range in geology, the nature and appearance of the soil differed from place to place. We originally planned to wash away the dirt to reveal a gray concrete structure. However, we were impressed by how it looked with soil that we decided to leave it as it is. It was then that we sensed the atmosphere of a cave and decided to redesign the building with a new image.
In designing the interior space, we visualized in 3D images the differences between the design drawings and the actual surface coordinates of the excavated structure. This process revealed new spaces that we had not anticipated to emerge from the overlapping discrepancies.
We discovered such places and updated the way to inhabit the architecture accordingly. Thus the architectural design process was flipped, to reference the structure to determine the designs including the placement and number of glass pieces, arrangement and size of the furniture, and positions and details of MEP facilities.
For example, where to fix the glass was adjusted based on actual on-site measurements, and 3D scan data was used to verify that the glass would not break by hitting the structure during the construction nor by opening/closing, and to adjust the position of the hinges.
To simplify the plumbing route, the water supply and drainage were planned to pass through the three courtyards in a straight line, and faucets, drainage pipes, ventilation ducts, etc. were installed to penetrate the glass windows into the rooms.
Accepting uncertainties, the concrete mass will gradually be transformed into architecture through cut-and-try. The owner will start a life here, run a restaurant, and continue to renew this place.
The organic form and materiality of the building was intended to lend the home and restaurant a feeling of heaviness and longevity, as though it has existed on the site for a long time.
From above it is marked by a white-painted concrete roof that has an undulating form and three skylights. The brightness of the paint is enhanced by the surrounding plants and trees.
The building’s form was developed by Ishigami’s studio through extensive three-dimensional modelling to ensure that the construction team knew the exact points and sizes for piling.
Inside, the restaurant is positioned to the north, while the domestic spaces sit to the south. Both are lined with glazed panels slotted between the arched openings.
These glazed areas help to subtly demarcate the boundaries between interior spaces and a trio of courtyards that separate from the house.
In the house, stand-out details of the interior include a sunken conversation pit lined with cushions, as well as a kitchen and a bath that were embedded into the concrete base of the building.
Lowering buildings within the ground is an increasingly popular trend in architecture, helping architects to reduce the visual impact of their projects.
Other recent examples include the Datong Art Museum in China by Foster + Partners and the NCaved house in Greece by Mold Architects.
Japanese architect Ishigami founded his eponymous studio Junya Ishigami + Associates in 2006 after four years working at the Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning studio SANAA.
His other projects include a covered plaza with a sloping floor at a Japanese university and the 2019 Serpentine Pavilion, which he described at the time as a “hill made out of rocks”.
For an architect renowned for his ethereal structures which challenge the limits of architecture and the laws of physics, this cave-like is an unexpected addition to his body of work. While appearing as a straightforward excavation, in fact the first step was to create a moat-like perimeter from which interior spaces emerged and were connected as diggers descended into the trenches to shift and manipulate the earthly matter. A sizeable 450m3 of concrete was poured into the holes in a single day without interruption.
The soil around the resulting curved pillars was removed to reveal the sunken labyrinthine alleys beneath, now the home of both the client as well as his new restaurant. The bulk of earth removed, the last layer leaves its imprint and traces on the outer concrete skin. These internal spaces remain below the ground’s horizontal datum, leaving only a polished screed of light concrete on the site’s surface.
Even if labour-intensive processes have never stopped Ishigami before, the madness of this project is intriguing, as is the counterintuitive process. The idea of ‘preserving the underground condition’ as expressed by the architect, feels somewhat naive. Concrete is poured into this delicate ecosystem. Here, lightness is traded for the weight of elephantine legs stomping across the substratum.
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