In A Japanese Ecovillage, A Home Filled With Gardens

When some architects talk about “bringing the outside in,” they’re referring to wider windows and sliding doors. ALTS Design Office means it literally. The firm’s Kofunaki House, completed in March, is filled with shrubs, succulents, and small trees.

“People from ancient times lived with nature, and loved it,” explain the firm’s two young partners, Sumiou Mizumoto and Yoshitaka Kuga, who are both Shiga natives. The duo work in an office located in a square-shaped residential development called an “ecovillage,” which looks a bit like Masdar. The idea behind the ecovillage, and Shiga’s future planning in general, is to provide distinct boundaries for development.

Mizumoto and Kuga believe that their community’s goals extend to architecture. They call Kofunaki House “a proposal for a rich new life. Sometimes it may be inconvenient, or it may take time and effort.” They continue, “however, natural light, comfortable wind, and many plants give us value beyond that.”

The building’s exterior doesn’t reveal much about its agenda. What little greenery surrounds the two-story home is still growing, and for the most part, the facade is impassive. Inside, though, huge swaths of floor have been turned into gravel gardens. There seems to be greenery everywhere: growing beneath the stairs, hanging from the balcony. Wooden “stepping stones” cut through the gravel, leading upwards to the lofted sleeping area.

The 1,400-square-foot floor plan is almost entirely open. “Inside and outside are connected more gently,” write ALTS, who have used translucent curtains to divide up the space. The architects hope the house will let the owners “enjoy the seasons, which move and pass away.”

[Images courtesy of ALTS Design Office and Yuta Yamada/Fujishokai]KCD