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Fuminori Nousaku Holes in the House

"Holes in the House" is an ongoing renovation project for Fuminori Nousaku Architects' home and studio, begun in 2017. The project, a 4-story steel frame warehouse from the 1980s, is located in Nishi, Shinagawa Ward, a topographically varied area that was predominately industrial during the last century. Due to these conditions, few large-scale developments have been introduced into the area in recent years, allowing for the relative preservation of an urban form constituted by narrow streets and land allotments. These plots have remained some of the most affordable in the ward, and, for the architects, are suitable for unusual architectural practice.

The project is programmatically organized by level: the ground floor houses an office that dually functions as a co-working space; the first floor contains two tatami rooms, intended for friends, travelers, and family, and also serves as an occasional classroom; the second floor, a living room, dining room, and kitchen; the third, a master bedroom, closet, and sound-proofed laundry room. The project’s roof supports photovoltaic panels for the hot water supply and a small vegetable garden that makes use of homemade compost.

Having started with a significantly limited budget, the architects sought to control the internal climate through primarily passive means. “Holes,” cut into the slabs of each floor, became an essential mechanism for allowing the tall structure to capitalize on convection and airflow, and also provided sectional space to link the differing programs via an unenclosed stair. On the third floor, an operable skylight enables cooling while permitting natural light to flood the interior of the structure.

The movement of heat, particularly in winter, became as important as the movement of people in the retrofitted structure. To address this, water, warmed through heat exchange in a storage tank, is transferred to a radiant heating system on the ground level via a polyethylene pipe. Heat emanating from the concrete floor, covered in 100mm styrofoam and a hinoki finish, rises to the third level and is blown back to the second floor by way of a duct that runs through the project’s void—in parallel to the movements of the project’s inhabitants.

The existing, single-pane glass windows were modified through the insertion of an additional layer of glass within their original aluminum sashes. Heat loss was further reduced through the application of 30mm spray foam insulation within the project’s exterior walls, which were later re-finished with diatomaceous earth plaster. To save money, this work was done by the architects themselves.

The legibility of intermeshed architectural and climate systems lends the renovation project the capacity to be both interactive and educational, as it is modified and remodified with the growth of the young office. The architects have stated, in commenting on their own education in this process: “In order to be able to understand the state of the place where we live, we measure the temperature and humidity inside the rooms on each floor. The temperature difference between the ground floor and the third floor was about 5 degrees in March. It is good training to link the feeling and numerical value.”