Masahiko Sato Designs The M6 House
This family home located in a neighbourhood of Kumamoto City, Japan subtly defies the earthiness and warmth of traditional Japanese homes, perfectly striking chords with the viewer’s perception of space. Ar. Masahiko Sato uses M6 as an opportunity to harmonise traditional Japanese architectural elements with the contemporary components of today’s living. Much in contrast with Asia’s modern luxurious residences, this project cleverly signifies and re-invokes the essence of ‘space’ design. At first, M6 poses as a rather contemporary and western residence with its cuboid-shaped exterior the geometry of which is interrupted with an iconic dark-coloured polygonal porch. But, step in and discover a series of interconnected spaces, surrounded by small inner courtyards and long slit windows that invite the warmth of the outside sun – energising the space with beams of positivity.
The residence welcomes its guests with a white clad facade complete with a contrasting geometric porch that doubles up as a shaded entrance courtyard. This two – storeyed concrete structure makes a bold statement with blank windowless walls to the street, designed keeping in mind the residents’ privacy. Remarkably, even the entrance door to the house seems to have been camouflaged with a wooden-clad partition-cum-column that not only connects the two separate facade components but also adds a third colour, completing the look with ‘Japanese’ textures. It is this trio of exterior earthen tones that amalgamates with the textures and colours of the surrounding landscape, framing the picturesque setting of a perfect contemporary Japanese home.
The robust exterior stands in contrast to the colourful and light filled interior spaces that open-up in areas to merge into the surrounding landscape. The house is planned keeping in mind the residents privacy, aiming to make the most of the available volume by providing a series of open, flexible spaces. The residence is primarily divided into two stories. The lower storey acts as a public space, with areas unfolding to merge with the exterior and the upper storey houses the more private spaces for its residents, with bedrooms that open up onto balconies towards the South.
The design features a centrally-located living + dining space, iconic of its simplicity and minimalism. The design of each individual space is extremely simple but made with attention to detail and intricacy. The designer often uses tones of yellows, rusts and browns to break the monotony of the white interior walls. The interiors are kept simple with minimal furniture, incorporating the use of natural materials such as wood and translucent paper-screens. The living + dining area is carved as a rather majestic volume in comparison with the other more compact and warmer spaces within the house. This double height cuboid is topped with an atrium that allows light to filter in, transforming the white textured walls into yellow glazed sunlit patterned-shaded screens that change with the passing of the day.
This living space, covered in wooden flooring is planned to host small landscaped gardens – Light Court, Bath Court and Terrace court on its perimeter. These series of spaces are connected via sliding glazed doors – typical of Japanese houses. Closer towards the entrance of the house, is a traditionally designed, Japanese style room, with foldable screens that open up into the exterior ‘Zen’ landscape.
White walls offset the warm tone of the wood used throughout the room, ensuring the interior remains bright throughout. Thin long slit-like windows cut open into the clay textured walls, allowing beams of sunlight to fill up the interior spaces.
The simplicity of Japanese dwellings contrasts the oft-esteemed excessive decoration of the West. What remains a remarkable feature of Japanese architecture is the quality of space, and that is certainly well reflected by Sato within this project.
A wooden staircase rises magnificently from behind the Living area, leading the owner into his own private space. This floor comprises of two rooms – the master bedroom and the comparatively smaller yet convertible children’s room. Beneath the staircase, that seems to be hanging on the ‘floor-to-ceiling’ wooden balustrades is the kaidan dansu or the ‘staircase cabinet’. The dansu dates back 1700, and is native to Japan. This traditional mobile storage cabinetry made of wood is used in a manner so as to store objects with different functions.
The second floor holds a much different character to the warm and brown-toned first floor. Where the white walls of the first floor are drenched in beams of sunlight, the children’s room is painted in colours of blue and yellow, compensating for the missing skylights and adding a touch of playfulness.
This family home is able to carve out enough storage space in the form of inbuilt wardrobes and veneered cabinets, crafted in unity with its clean and tidy planning. Bright white interior walls become hosts to beautiful art pieces, that complete the volume with its otherwise missing dose of colour.
The architect consciously tries to disrupt the monotony of the brown tones, by adding a touch of play with horizontal black-and-white striped flooring on all wet areas of the house.
Another feature of the M6 is its mini ‘zen’ gardens that appear at the perimeter of the residence, complete with stones, a water body and lush greenscape. Open to the sky, these gardens allow the interiors to be secluded within a covered space, yet still being open to the exterior. Working to engage with the outdoors, the architect envisions funnels of natural sunlight into the interiors through openings in reinforced concrete beams, shifting its moods – with each passing moment during the day. Conceived as a series of layers that gradually unfold from public to private spaces and vice-versa, Sato exploits the art of applying different materiality to surfaces, establishing a harmony throughout the changing levels of the residence. M6 beautifully embraces traditional Japanese Architecture with the contemporary needs of a growing family.