a+u Architecture and Urbanism Magazine

Architecture A recipe to live

The LIXIL* International University Architectural Competition – hosted by LIXIL JS Foundation – is a design competition for university research laboratories. Every year, universities from around the world are invited to participate to design sustainable architecture in Memu Meadows in Taiki-cho, Hokkaido, which is composed of experimental sustainable projects including MÊME by architect Kengo Kuma. This year’s competition – themed “Retreat in Nature” – is under way with participants from 12 universities from 11 countries and will end in late March. by Waseda University - Masaki Ogasawara / Keisuke Tsukada / Erika Mikami LIXIL Corporation is Japan’s leading building materials and housing equipment manufacturing and sales company.

We would like to introduce “A recipe to live” by Waseda University students – Masaki Ogasawara, Keisuke Tsukada, and Erika Mikami – who were the winners of the competition in 2011. The house was constructed in 2012. Below is a text by the students also introduced in February 2013 issue of a+u.

Taiki-cho is a dairy farming town. Because it is situated in a coastal area of Hokkaido where salty sea winds blow, other agricultural products are difficult to grow there. Pasture grass stores up solar energy in the hot summer months, and dairy farms use the grass as forage for raising dairy cattle. Taiki’s seasonal culture is therefore centered on the pastures, and the town’s landscape and everyday life are founded on pasture grass as a raw material. Paradoxically, to employ the pasture grass in creating places for people to live, in Taiki, is equivalent to coexisting with the town’s seasonal culture, and this approach has provided a solution to problems sought since the 3.11 Earthquake.

This house is composed of shelves of two kinds—first, shelves fastened to the exterior walls for forage drying and, second, interior shelves with acrylic cases for fermenting the dried grass in winter, so as to produce heat. The year’s first grass crop is cut and placed to dry on the drying shelves while the house is receiving the powerful rays of summer sun. At this time, due to the moisture it releases, the drying grass functions as a “heat shield panel” and alleviates the harsh summer heat inside the house. The year’s second grass crop, harvested when the sun’s light has mellowed, is more pliant than the grass of the first crop. As the seasons change, the dried grass of the first crop is placed in the interior acrylic cases, and the pliable grass of the second crop takes its place on the exterior walls. Because of its pliancy, the second crop grass can be packed more densely, thereby enhancing the air-tightness of the walls. Thus, the grass performs as a buffer against the cold.

The grass sealed in the acrylic cases is made to ferment in the cold winter months by adding “bokashi” (organic and slow release) fertilizer and moisture (with ammonium sulfate and slaked lime mixed in). The fermentation process differs, depending on the kind of grass (first crop, second crop, third crop …) and kind of “bokashi” fertilizer employed. The grass can be turned into a 40° heat source that can be sustained for about 36 hours or a 30° heat source that can be sustained for three to four weeks.