In a concerted effort to harmonize recycling, water and energy use some years ago, citizens, community leaders and researchers collaborated on the creation of a 1,000-person ecovillage in Shiga prefecture, located near Kyoto, Japan. Earlier this year, Shiga-based architects Sumiou Mizumoto and Yoshitaka Kuga of ALTS Design Office completed the Kofunaki House, a lovely example of integrating nature with dwelling in this new eco-community.
The house's open interior uses the natural surfaces of wood, combined with ample natural lighting and strategically-placed gravel gardens to evoke a sense of changing seasons. Small trees, succulents and shrubs poke out of the interior gardens, a conscious effort to bring nature inside, weaving it into the daily activities of the family.
It's a counterpoint to conventional housing's separation from nature, say the architects on ArchDaily:
A home is [usually] divided inside and outside completely, and [nature] is not considered, but [the in Kofunaki house] inside and outside are connected more gently, and people are beginning to make the space which [one] can always feel woods, feel nature, and enjoy the season which moves and passes away.
The entry area is modelled after the doma of the traditional Japanese farmhouse (minka). The doma is a floor of packed earth historically used for cooking and storing water -- it is the entry area before one steps up onto the raised floor of the house. Here in Kofunaki House the doma is transformed into a transitional area blending inside and out, thanks to the suggestive gravel garden and staggered planks of wood which act as stepping stones of sorts.
Within the 1,400 square-foot home there is a distinct sense of harmony in the overlap of spaces and viewpoints throughout the house; the open-riser stair and the bridge connecting the upstairs office and sleeping areas helps greatly in this aspect.
Spaces are gently separated with the use of translucent curtains rather than solid walls, adding to the fluid feel of the design.
Though there's not much said on what specific kinds of materials and methods were used, aesthetically and philosophically the Kofunaki House presents a fresh, modern take on what housing in a contemporary ecovillage might look like: open, unassuming yet full of distinctive touches. More over at ALTS Design Office and ArchDaily.