Nurturing the Mothers

ARCHITECTS
Atelier Cube
www7a.biglobe.ne.jp/atelier-cube

PROJECT
Hoshi no Ie
1-23-1 Miyake, Minami-ku

Fukuoka,
Japan

According to local custom in the area around Fukuoka, new mothers learn about raising children from the experienced women in their neighborhoods. But for various reasons, this tradition is gradually diminishing; today, young women who have to take care of a child can feel quite isolated.

To increase contact between young mothers, Hiromi Kiyohara, the director of the Seisei kindergarten in Fukuoka, initiated a “chat salon” inside his school, where women could gather and talk leisurely over a cup of tea. The salon turned out to be very successful, and the idea arose to expand the project with its own venue, open to members of the local community, including those not using the kindergarten. “Bringing up a child in modern society not only involves the infant’s education but also the needs of a mother,” Kiyohara explains. “Hoshi no Ie—‘house of stars’—is a facility with professional child-nurturing staff on-site that supports new mothers by giving them the opportunity to tell their stories about raising children, and share their worries.”

The director commissioned Atelier Cube, a Fukuoka-based architectural practice, to renovate a private home standing on a plot adjacent to the kindergarten. The firm is run by Yuka Matsuyama and Masahiro Kiyohara (who is the kindergarten director’s son), and has previously designed several public buildings for children. For Hoshi no Ie, the architects envisioned a quiet and gentle space where kids under the age of three can play while their mothers meet with prospective parents. “Rather than simply replacing the existing house, I tried to add new power to the old residence,” says Masahiro Kiyohara.

Atelier Cube preserved the building’s roof, exterior walls, and openings, but dismantled the rest. Next, they inserted a distinctly modern room into the old wooden structure. The new, womblike interior space creates a quiet atmosphere, referencing a child’s experience of space in his or her mother’s belly.

“The curved white-plaster surface, in the soft sunlight, produces a glowing effect that makes it difficult to locate the actual walls,” the architect Kiyohara explains. “While the space itself is new, the old structure of the building, the window frames, and the translucent windows are tangible. This combination makes it a place where both children and their mothers feel secure enough to spend the early days of their new lives.”

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