A House Folded
The architects Kentaro Takeguchi and Asako Yamamoto of Alphaville are not afraid to use irregular shapes. Since opening their Kyoto-based practice in 1998, they have experimented with an architectural vocabulary that favors oblique lines within the frameworks of buildings. “Slanted walls and curves,” Yamamoto says, “are to keep the energy of people, light, and the wind flowing.” In their recent design of a 1,075-square-foot house near Osaka, the Alphaville architects inserted a folded wall into the heart of the house to effectively guide this energy flow.
The clients—a university administrator and a manga blogger, married and in their mid-40s—had in mind a simple enclosed house facing a private courtyard. This seemingly easy request, however, challenged the architects from the start. “If you dig a courtyard in a six-by-twelve-meter-wide lot and put a three-story-high building on it, the courtyard can never function as a light court but will turn into a dark well,” explains Takeguchi.
The two partners quickly gave up on the idea of a literal courtyard typology and slightly modified their clients’ concept. With a floor plan in the shape of a 430-square-foot parallelogram, they created two triangular courts. Then they divided the house with a wall that is folded along a diagonal line over a height of three floors. This solution provides both sides of the wall with ample space for living. “With the folded wall, we give the dwelling different faces,” Yamamoto says. “Each time you cross through the folded wall it feels like you are entering another world.”
By harnessing two kinds of light, Alphaville further intensifies the experience. In the southern half of the house, the interior receives direct light from the east and, from the west, reflected light that pours into the space though openings in the folded wall. The opposite effect occurs in the northern half of the house. The final result is, according to the architects, a continuous cloud of indirect light that hangs around the entire folded wall. “When you see this phenomena from the doorway, it feels like the folded wall is an exterior wall,” Takeguchi says. “So in the end, we obtained a light quality in the house very similar to that of a courtyard, just like the clients requested.”