October 25, 2010

A Real Greenhouse (House)

Camouflage house by Fifth World Architects
Here's a recent project that really takes 'greenhouse' to the next level. Designed by Hiroshi Iguchi of Fifth World Architects, Camouflage House is a private residence for a single family in Japan. You won't find any commercial farming here, and in fact, the house isn't even located in a city. However, many of the ideas in this design resonate strongly with the new urban food movement, and in general, Japan has a certain relationship with
nature that is worthy of discussion.

Japanese Shinto philosophy promotes a respect for nature and encourages a close relationship between nature and man, a concept that has been clearly endorsed by Iguchi in his Camouflage House. Affectionately referred to as Greenhouse House, the home is smartly designed around the plants that share the space, and the materials used for the project are all-natural and eco-friendly. The wood and paper materials used inside the space soften the aesthetic of the metal and glass enclosure. 

Entrance and stairway on left. Kitchen and dining area on right.

The home is split between two levels. The ground floor includes the kitchen, dining room, living space, rock garden, and gardens. Stairs partially hidden by a screen of vertical slates lead up to an open space perfect for lounging, sky gazing, or any special activity. Sliding paper screens divide interior spaces, allowing for control of privacy and flexibility of space. If this already seems pretty great, some of the design details really push it a step further.

Downstair living area on the left. Second floor on the right.

Poplar trees have been strategically planted around the house to help shade the interior during the summer. Come winter, the poplar leaves fall, allowing more sunlight to penetrate during the colder months. Several trees are planted in two interior gardens and poke through the roof into the open air. The cozy gardens are open to the sky, but are sealed off from the rest of the house and accessed through two doors. Vegetables are grown along the southern side of the second floor, serving as both a food source and protection from the sun. Additional comfort control is provided through the paper wall partitions as well as draped canvas sheets, both of which are translucent yet insulative, providing sufficient natural daylight while maintaining comfortable temperature levels. Ventilation is provided by several sliding glass doors and operable windows that run along the apex of the roof. 

Dark wooden floors of rich Japanese walnut contrast beautifully with the white walls and draping canvas, where delicate shadows dance as the surrounding trees sway in the wind. The land adjacent to the house is reflected on its glass roof, providing the residents with a visual image of incoming visitors. While the home exudes a simple minimalism common to the Japanese aesthetic, it is not without technological support. The house is engineered for seismic activity and has been heavily tested for wind and rain, and in general, durability was a key factor throughout the design process.

Rock garden, with interior tree garden visible in background

Greenhouse House is a stunning example of sustainable design that promotes nature and encourages a sustainable lifestyle. It is worth noting that considering Japan's small size, advanced technology, and high percentage of urban land, the Japanese people continue to retain a strong connection to nature and environment that sets an impressive model for other developed nations to look up to.

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