Why are Japanese houses so weird?

A few years back I was going to try a feature called Weird Japanese house of the week, but there was really nothing relevant to TreeHugger other than they were generally tiny. There was also the question of why so many of them were so bizarre, reinventing the typology, the whole idea of house in such strange ways. Over in ArchDaily, Japanese architect Alastair Townsend notes that there are some significant differences in the way both homeowners and architects think about housing, answering the question, "what motivates their clients, who opt for such eccentric expressions of lifestyle?"

The reason the homeowners can do it is that they do not look at the house as a real estate as an investment; it is the land that has value.

In the West, deviation from societal norms can jeopardize a home’s value, since it may prove impractical or distasteful to future buyers. Bold design decisions can present investment risk, so clients usually temper their personal tastes and eccentricities accordingly..... Houses in Japan rapidly depreciate like consumer durable goods – cars, fridges, golf clubs, etc. After 15 years, a home typically loses all value and is demolished on average just 30 years after being built.

In Japan, they depreciate the house like they would their car, and people expect new and fresh. The architects are working in a different environment as well.

For architects, it also helps that civil lawsuits are rare. Unlike their litigation-wary European and American counterparts, Japanese architects rarely fear claims of negligence, emboldening them to take greater risks.

© Naf Architects

That's an interesting fact; When I reviewed a Japanese house with a deathtrap of a climbing wall, I wondered how long it would take for the architect to get sued for everything he is worth.

In the end, we never did the Weird Japanese House of the Week, it seemed to glorify wretched excess and waste. It turns out to be true; as Townsend concludes about some of the sillier designs, "they’ll eventually tear it all down anyway."

Read it all in ArchDaily and at Alastair Townsend's website.

Tags: Architects | Japan