Project Info


Words by mooponto Staff

November 15, 2012

Automobile is our rival to beat.

Came one day a client who offered us a business. He wished to have an atelier which can be used also as a gallery to present his work of ceramic art, which he made for pleasure.

With mere 1.5 million yen (=11,000 euro) which he saved to originally purchase a business-purpose Toyota Corolla sedan to spare as total budget, we started our project.

1.5 million yen. Ridiculously small sum of money for building any kind of architecture. Yet, it’s good sum if you’re going to pay away in everyday life. At least it affords you a “mobile room” with fancy air conditioner, car navigation system and power window. Question arisen. Are we sure we properly translate the money into the quality of architecture? Can ever be born objects that embody beauty and rationality in such architectural world, which is highly specialized and socially defined? These kinds of skepticism were something that bothered us over years. That’s why we felt great appeal for the small budget he offered.

To beat an automobile in value by holding a thorough investigation into closed payment structure of architectural industry; to quest an object which is most rational and reasonable by treating an architectural structure as a plain object…

Motto of this project was like this: “Make great use of 1.5 million yen, and architecture get ahead of automobile”.


There’s no room for contractors when we think of our poor budget. Only option left was to design an architecture that can be built by ourselves, except a few process which needs specialist’s hands. Fortunately our client offers a help. He and his family once worked as designer for boats and ships and have good sense in creating things.

For this is a project with sparse budget, we need to build the atelier by ourselves and with:
1. the cheapest material,
2. the most efficient use,
3. the least varieties of material,
4. the least process,
5. the shortest period,
6. the simplest method, and create
7. the most functional space.

The answers for these were:

1. Utilize structural plywood with the size of 1800x900x12 (mm) as main material (in Japan, it’s highly distributed dimensional lumber).
2. Glue 4~5 sheets of plywood together to make a panel while keeping width 900mm (this process was outsourced to joiner).
3. Put the panel as structural material (pillar, beam and brace), finishing material (floor, wall and ceiling), insulation material and roof truss material.
4. Use the plywood as multipurpose material thus save many steps.
5. Devote 3 days of holiday season (May 3rd, 4th and 5th) for construction.
6. Joint the panel with mortise-tenon only (please refer to the detailed model to right)
7. Take full advantage of tubular structure which is well-ventilated and well-lighted. Repetitive X-shaped unit enables expansion at request so far as space permits (expansion is expected in near future).

light penetrates the structure from the criss-crossed openings

XXXX frame / Form of strength
Incline even frames to left, odd frames to right and join them alternately to form X-shaped structure. We thus achieved astylar tubular space (shifted-trussing structure, if we call it) with triangle-shaped slit for natural lighting. A frame is consisted of 4 kinds of panels. This is a structure which enables us to handle a request for expansion just by adding another frame.

As you may see in these pictures, this architecture have wooden monocoque construction when assembled. Pillar, beam, brace, finishing material, insulation material, sash frame, roof truss material… Plywood panels played all these roles at once and played very successfully. We put monocoque construction that has hybrid functionality to reduce construction cost, period and process and to increase the value of design. After all we followed the same path that our rival -automobile- once passed. As a result of a pursuit of rationality, “White Box” that once said to be a design which ultimately represents rationality and abstraction of today’s modernism architecture started to be resolved to the more extent. Sunlight and breeze from outside brought the rationality to the existence of this object through triangle-shaped slits. As we see our work perfectly fit into the God’s rich work, we assured the rhythm of the shaded w 900 panels praise our challenge.

The building site is located on urbanization control area in Yaizu-shi, Shizuoka Prefecture where weather is genial thorough a year. Our work is now sitting on southwest corner of the client’s place, south of their house. To the west we have a park which offers a great view with so many trees and plants, and to the east, garden plants such as plum trees cultivated with client’s loving care.

Facing south, though, is neighboring house. To the north, we can expect nothing more than walls of client’s own house.

In our client’s head, there also is a plan to expand the architecture to make a cozy little guesthouse in near future.

Considering the primary function of the structure as atelier to create ceramic art, lighting and ventilation was essential. At the same time, the architecture had to be built with the minimum quantity of popular material, using a few manpower only, in the simplest and shortest process to reduce construction cost.

We put long axes east-west and opened each end. Assembled structure forms a tube with triangle slits thus ensures well-lighted, well-ventilated and hard-to-break space. This structure consists of repetitive unit and will help us much in responding to a possible request for extension.

more Japanese ateliers →

floor plan



location: Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
function: atelier for ceramist
project team: Masahiro Harada + Mao Harada
site area: 502.86 m²
built area: 22.30 m²
total floor area: 16.70 m²
building height: 2,720 mm
structural system: wood panels (1F)
materials: structural plywood (exterior = interior)
design period: January 2003 – April 2003
construction period: March 2003 – September 2003
photographs: courtesy of MOUNT FUJI ARCHITECTS STUDIO


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more Japanese leisure architecture →

Tags: #ateliers#galleries#Japan#Minimalism#wooden buildings#Yaizu

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