Text by Katie Gerfen
When Takanori Kagawa and Junko Kishigami of Osaka-based design studio SpaceSpace arrived at this single-family home in Inoka, Japan, "more than half of the garden was used as a parking lot with an illegal carport, and the remainder had fallen into ruin," Kishigami says. The new owners wanted an entire gut renovation of the interior of the house, as well as a reinvigorated outdoor space. The main goal of the new garden? "They wanted the chance to communicate with their neighbors," Kishigami says.
The team at SpaceSpace removed the structures in the yard, and, hampered only by local height limits, replaced them with a poured-in-place concrete structure that serves multiple functions. The elevated concrete plane is nearly the same size as the footprint of the house itself, and pathways connect it to the ground-floor living and kitchen spaces. Similar pathways around the site provide all of the exterior circulation.
The extra height of the raised platform and paths makes it easier for the residents to interact with their neighbors over the low fences of the surrounding plots. Furnishing the patio are custom-designed tables and benches that are fabricated from steel plates and provide an outdoor seating area and play space for the children; one long, rectangular table bridges the gap between the platform and sliding glass doors in the dining area in the open-plan first floor of the residence, allowing for easy surveillance of the children and an indoor/outdoor dining experience.
But the main event is a series of stairs that double as riser- or bleacher-style seating. They climb up at the eastern edge of the concrete plane, concealing the bulk of a covered (and legal) garage for the family car that is accessible from the street on the other side of the structure. The back wall of the garage serves as a backrest for the top of the three risers; above that, the structure sweeps up, culminating in a ridged roofline that is mirrored over the garage volume.
The concrete structure also allowed Kagawa and Kishigami to walk the line between privacy and openness. The height of the garage shields the bulk of the patio from the street, while still allowing for the desired connections to neighboring houses. But the area around the structure, at least on this plot, is largely open. Before the renovation began, "the exterior of the houses consisted of many elements, including a fence, gate, carport, bicycle parking, and plants," Kishigami says, noting that they decided to remove some of the elements that blocked off the site "because these devices can project meaning to the city." Now, no fences on the public face remain, and, through SpaceSpace's design, the residents have made their message of welcome to the neighborhood quite clear.