a+u Architecture and Urbanism Magazine

Yoshiharu Tsukamoto Momoyo Kaijima Lunar Machiya

A machiya (merchant’s house, lit. townhouse) with a moon-viewing tower in a location where rice fields are being turned into houses. From the mise (storefront), the main house can be seen across the central garden. The mise has a gable roof, but its entrance is marked by a shed roof parallel to the ridge. As the new generation of gable-roofed machiya, this house was built in the rice-field belt that extends along the Shō River, which runs from the mountains to the Tsuruga Plains, an area that is in the process of becoming a residential district.

The client became interested in the guest house built by Atelier Bow-Wow in Kanazawa, being drawn to it by the Japanese quality of its spaces. Here, it was necessary to consider the accommodation of two cars, the husband’s being able to occasionally work from home, the views of Nosaka-dake, Kinukake-yama and other mountain peaks to the south, and the strong winter winds from the mountains. Ten meters wide by twenty-five meters deep, the property has little room for a residence; it abuts a residence on the east, but to the north and west are rice fields.

We thought to study how build a house that would in a sense become a model for future construction in this gradually densifying residential area. In the roadside landscape of towns on the Sea of Japan side of the country, gable-roofed machiya that consider the removal of snow from the roof. So a gable-roofed machiya centered on a façade that holds a continuity with the surrounding landscape, while maintaining its independence as a free-standing building, fits perfectly in this place.

Taking advantage of the entire property, the mise is used for the study, the garage which is fronted by a lattice door, and in the attic a guest room; the main house is used for the double-volume living room at the center of the property, the bedrooms, bath and the child’s room; the two buildings are connected by an annex that is used for the main entrance, kitchen and dining. The gable roofs surround and protect the central garden from strong winds, and by keeping the ceiling height for both at 1.65 m, the building height is kept shorter than the surrounding houses, not standing out among them. Yet, breaking that constraint, the moon-viewing tower sticks up from the center of the main house’s gable, with the repeating second-floor windows creating sight lines out on four sides. Sitting on the drainboard floor of the tower, one looks out to the moon and mountain range. Because of the chimney effect, the winds coming from the rice fields intersect with the interior draft. (Yoshiharu Tsukamoto)