East­ern oa­sis

Ja­pan-based ar­chi­tect Luke Hay­ward of ate­lier Luke has de­signed Ichi­joji House, a con­tem­po­rary res­i­den­tial haven in Ky­oto.


Ja­pan-based Luke Hay­ward of ate­lier Luke has de­signed Ichi­joji House, a con­tem­po­rary res­i­den­tial haven in Ky­oto

Framed by its el­e­gant nat­u­ral en­vi­rons, the thought­ful, grace­ful lines and tex­tures of Ichi­joji House cap­ture the magic that in­fuses modern liv­ing in Ky­oto. The prop­erty was de­signed by Aus­tralian-born Luke Hay­ward, who leads his epony­mous Osaka-based firm with Ja­panese in­te­rior de­signer Junko Nakat­suka, and who col­lab­o­rated with the re­gion’s mas­ter ar­ti­sans to com­plete the del­i­cate ren­o­va­tion.

“The home ex­em­pli­fies the chang­ing no­tion of lux­ury in con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture. I think it’s im­por­tant to recog­nise that lux­ury does not have to mean os­ten­ta­tion,” says Hay­ward.

“We worked very closely with the client, a Dan­ish-Aus­tralian fur­ni­ture maker, through­out the de­sign process for their hol­i­day home. They were very trust­ing of our de­sign ideas and we were all im­me­di­ately struck by the sense of place in the ex­ist­ing house,” he con­tin­ues.

The ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion and small ex­ten­sion of the 50m2 two-floor Ja­panese row/ter­raced house took more than a year and a half. Orig­i­nally con­structed in 1961 as one in a block of four homes, this typ­i­cal post-war Ja­panese prop­erty had been ne­glected for more than half a cen­tury.

Hay­ward’s nu­anced de­sign phi­los­o­phy and past projects at Richard Kirk in Queens­land paved the way for the project. “I’m mostly in­ter­ested in de­sign that pri­ori­tises ex­pe­ri­ence over im­age,” says Hay­ward. “I want it to feel some­thing like to be in a space or to in­ter­act with an ob­ject. Along with this comes a strong in­ter­est in craft[sman­ship].”

In ad­di­tion to count­ing Swedish ar­chi­tect Sig­urd Lew­er­entz, RCR Arqui­tectes, Stu­dio Mum­bai and Peter Zumthor as im­por­tant in­spi­ra­tional fig­ures, Hay­ward cred­its his Aus­tralian up­bring­ing with play­ing a cru­cial role: “Grow­ing up in Aus­tralia, the em­pha­sis on the value of the prag­matic is in­escapable. There’s a yearn­ing for ex­pres­sion that is of­ten tem­pered by a dis­dain for fri­vol­ity.”

“Fi­nally, be­fore be­gin­ning a ca­reer in ar­chi­tec­ture, I worked in film pro­duc­tion,” he ex­plains. “We cat­e­gorise film as a vis­ual medium, but it is of­ten far more ex­pe­ri­en­tial than a lot of ar­chi­tec­ture. It in­flu­ences how I think about mov­ing through a space and how that ex­pe­ri­ence will feel and change and build.”

This ap­proach can be seen in the de­tails of Ichi­joji House. “By plac­ing much of our at­ten­tion on the ex­pe­ri­ence of the spa­ces, the de­sign feels larger and richer than the floor area would sug­gest. Through­out, ev­ery el­e­ment is hand­made and so the ex­pe­ri­ence of craft is ev­i­dent not only in the ap­pear­ance of the fin­ishes but in how each el­e­ment is as­sem­bled into a whole.”

Pro­gra­mat­i­cally, the house was in­verted from its orig­i­nal de­sign, with liv­ing spa­ces placed on the up­per floor and pri­vate ar­eas on the ground.

“The home is long and nar­row, with high ceil­ings in the main space and open­ings only at each end. This cre­ates a lovely con­trast be­tween the cosy shad­owy spa­ces in the mid­dle and the bright light at the edges. By util­is­ing darker tones, softer ma­te­ri­als and matte tex­tures, this con­trast is fur­ther em­pha­sised. Light en­ter­ing through win­dows quickly falls away as it is ab­sorbed and scat­tered by tim­ber and paper sur­faces – shad­ows be­come deeper and ar­eas of light are in­ten­si­fied,” says Hay­ward.

“Colour is used in the smaller spa­ces to lend ex­tra vi­brancy and a lit­tle sur­prise. In­tense red and black lin­ings, with lim­ited light­ing and deep shad­ows, make the toi­let space some­where unique to visit. Vi­brant blue pa­pers play a sim­i­lar role in the bath­room, en­liven­ing an en­closed and pri­vate part of the home.”

From the stained wall­pa­per to the lac­quered floor­boards and the tim­ber joinery, ev­ery el­e­ment has been hand-fin­ished us­ing tra­di­tional tech­niques. “It was re­ally im­por­tant for us to ap­proach the tra­di­tional crafts with re­spect and un­der­stand­ing. Many of the crafts­peo­ple we worked with are just the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion in a long fam­ily tra­di­tion,” he ex­plains.

His favourite space? The par­lour/guest room on the ground floor. “There’s a very nice feel­ing of spa­cious­ness with the way the room flows down to the court­yard out­side and up to the din­ing/kitchen space above. Also, from this room the an­gle is just right to look up and through the kitchen win­dows to the forested Ky­oto hills,” notes Hay­ward.

He is also en­am­oured with the home’s many de­tails: “The most beau­ti­ful tra­di­tional el­e­ments in the home are the fusuma paper screens. Un­like more well-known shoji, these screens have a tim­ber frame con­cealed within a layer of pig­mented Ja­panese paper. They’re all hand­made and in­cred­i­bly del­i­cate. When lit from be­hind they ap­pear translu­cent, with the tim­ber skele­tal frame sil­hou­et­ted within. When lit from in front they ap­pear solid and mono­lithic.”

His fu­ture looks to be as har­mo­nious as his Ky­oto de­sign: “We have a cou­ple of new projects in Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing a ru­ral prop­erty lo­cated in the hin­ter­land of the fa­mous By­ron Bay. We also have an­other ren­o­va­tion project in Ky­oto that is sched­uled to be com­pleted in the au­tumn.”

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