Inside the Japanese Houses of Shigeru Ban

01
of 05

Naked House (2000)

Two children atop a container room, Inside the Shigeru Ban-Designed Naked House, 2000, Saitama, Japan
Inside the Shigeru Ban-Designed Naked House, 2000, Saitama, Japan. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai, Shigeru Ban Architects courtesy Pritzkerprize.com, modified by cropping

Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban works with nontraditional building materials; he plays with interior spaces; he creates flexible, movable compartments; he embraces the challenges posed by the client and solves them with avant guarde ideas. Let's explore the interiors of 5 Modern Houses by Shigeru Ban.

The interior design of Naked House brings together many of the experimental elements of the Japanese architect. The homeowner of this house wanted his "unified family" to be in a "shared atmosphere," without separation and seclusion, but with the option of private space for "individual activities." Surprise. A homeowner who wants it all.

"I knew that I should take up this challenge," Ban says.

Ban designed a house similar to the greenhouses that dotted the neighborhood. The interior space was light and wide open. And then the fun began.

Like the Japanese architects of the Metabolist Movement that came before him, Shigeru Ban designed flexible modules—four "personal rooms on casters." These small, adaptable units with sliding door-walls could be joined to create larger rooms. They could be rolled anywhere within the interior space, and also outside onto the terrace. 

"This house is," Ban commented, "indeed, a result of my vision of enjoyable and flexible living, which evolved from the client’s own vision toward a living and a family life."

When Ban received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2014, the Jury cited Naked House as an example of Ban's ability "to question the traditional notion of rooms and consequently domestic life, and simultaneously create a translucent, almost magical atmosphere."

Sources: Jury Citation, The Hyatt Foundation at PritzkerPrize.com; NAKED HOUSE - Saitama, Japan, 2000, WORKS - Houses and Housings, Shigeru Ban Architects [accessed August 14, 2015]

02
of 05

Nine-Square Grid House (1997)

Inside the Shigeru Ban-Designed Nine-Square Grid House, 1997, Kanagawa, Japan
Inside the Shigeru Ban-Designed Nine-Square Grid House, 1997, Kanagawa, Japan. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai, Shigeru Ban Architects courtesy Pritzkerprize.com, modified by cropping

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban names his houses descriptively. The Nine-Square Grid House has a square open living space that can be equally divided into 9 square rooms. Notice the grooves on the floor and ceiling. What architect Shigeru Ban calls "sliding doors" can partition any of the open 1164 square feet  (108 square meters). This method of "room making" is unlike Ban's 2000 Naked House, where he creates movable cubicle rooms within a space. Ban experimented widely with sliding walls not only in this design, but also  in his 1992 PC Pile House and the 1997 Wall-less House.

"The spatial composition combines the systems of two walls and a Universal Floor," describes Ban. "These sliding doors allow a variety of spatial arrangements, adjustable to accommodate seasonal or functional needs."

Like many of Ban's private home designs, the integration of interior and exterior spaces is a very organic concept, like Frank Lloyd Wright's organic architecture. Also like Wright, Ban at times experimented with built-in and unorthodox furnishings. The paper-tube chairs seen here are similar to the chairs found in the 1995Curtain Wall House.

Source: NINE-SQUARE GRID HOUSE - Kanagawa, Japan, 1997, WORKS - Houses and Housings, Shigeru Ban Architects [accessed December 1, 2014]

03
of 05

Curtain Wall House (1995)

Inside the Shigeru Ban-Designed Curtain Wall House, 1995, Tokyo, Japan
Inside the Shigeru Ban-Designed Curtain Wall House, 1995, Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai, Shigeru Ban Architects courtesy Pritzkerprize.com, modified by cropping

Is this a traditional Japanese house interior? To Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban, the two-story curtain wall embraces the traditions of fusuma doors, sudare panels, and sliding shoji screens.

Again, the interior of the Curtain Wall House is like many other experiments by Ban. Note the demarcation of the floor. The planked decking area is really an attached porch that can be isolated by panels that slide along the grooves separating the living area from the porch.

Interior and exterior space is mixed up because Ban has designed it so flexibly and organically. There is no "inside" nor "outside," no "interior" nor "exterior." The architecture is one organism. All space is livable and usable.

Ban continues his experimentation with furniture-making and industrial paper tubes. Look closely to see the plywood leg framing supporting rows of cardboard tubing that forms the seat and back of each chair. Similar furniture can be found in the 1997 Nine-Square Grid House. In 1998, Ban presented this paper-tube furniture as The Carta furniture series.

Source: CURTAIN WALL HOUSE - Tokyo, Japan, 1995, WORKS - Houses and Housings, Shigeru Ban Architects [accessed December 1, 2014]

04
of 05

House of Double-Roof (1993)

Inside the Shigeru Ban-Designed House of Double-Roof, 1993, Yamanashi, Japan
Inside the Shigeru Ban-Designed House of Double-Roof, 1993, Yamanashi, Japan. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai, Shigeru Ban Architects courtesy Pritzkerprize.com (modified)

Note the interior living area within Shigeru Ban's House of Double-Roof—the ceiling and associated roof of this open-air box is NOT the ceiling and corrugated metal roof of the house itself. The two-roof system allows the weight of natural elements (e.g., snow load) to be separated by air from the roof and ceiling of the living space—all without having attic space.

"Since the ceiling is not suspended from the roof," says Ban, "it is freed of the deflection margin, and thus the ceiling becomes a second roof with a minimal load. In addition, the upper roof provides shelter against direct sun during the summer."

Unlike many of his later designs, in this 1993 house Ban uses exposed steel pipes, supporting the roof, that become part of the interior design itself. Compare this to the 1997 Nine-Square Grid House where two solid walls form the support.

Exterior photos of the House of Double-Roof show that the structure's top-level roof is the unifying element for all interior spaces. The blurring and unification of exterior and interior space are continuing experiments and themes in Ban's residential designs.

Source: HOUSE OF DOUBLE-ROOF - Yamanashi, Japan, 1993, WORKS - Houses and Housings, Shigeru Ban Architects [accessed December 1, 2014]

05
of 05

PC Pile House (1992)

Inside the Shigeru Ban-designed PC Pile House, 1992, Shizuoka, Japan
Inside the Shigeru Ban-designed PC Pile House, 1992, Shizuoka, Japan. Photo by Hiroyuki Hirai, Shigeru Ban Architects courtesy Pritzkerprize.com

The industrial design of the table and chairs in PC Pile House mimics the industrial design of the house itself—round pillar legs hold up a laminated table top, similar to the round pillars that hold up the floor and walls of the house itself.

The Japanese architect of this house and its furnishings, Shigeru Ban, describes the chairs as "L-shaped wooden units joined in a repeating pattern." The experimental furniture for the PC Pile House was later used for easily transportable, lightweight exhibition furniture that could be economically built from manufacturers' wood scrap. Similar furniture can be seen in the 1993 House of Double-Roof.

Source: PC PILE HOUSE - Shizuoka, Japan, 1992, WORKS - Houses and Housings, and L-UNIT SYSTEM - 1993, WORKS - Industrial Design, Shigeru Ban Architects [accessed August 17, 2015]

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Craven, Jackie. "Inside the Japanese Houses of Shigeru Ban." ThoughtCo, Feb. 23, 2017, thoughtco.com/interiors-japanese-houses-of-shigeru-ban-177319. Craven, Jackie. (2017, February 23). Inside the Japanese Houses of Shigeru Ban. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/interiors-japanese-houses-of-shigeru-ban-177319 Craven, Jackie. "Inside the Japanese Houses of Shigeru Ban." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/interiors-japanese-houses-of-shigeru-ban-177319 (accessed October 19, 2017).