Cherry Blossom House -, 03/15/2008

The Meguro neighborhood of Tokyo is famed for wringing the pockets of its residents—despite being just as jam-packed as other areas downtown. When Masahiro Harada, Harada Mao, and Ishi Naoto of Mount Fuji Architects were commissioned to design a live / work space in the district, they knew the challenge was to create a home that transcended the claustrophobic neighborhood.

Yesterday, I met Masahiro and Mao Hasada of Mount Fuji Architects for a lunch in the Den-en-chofu neighborhood. Over a plate of Tonkatsu (breaded, deep fried pork served with a side of shredded cabbage), we discussed the firm’s four-year history, touching on the small number of projects that have fueled their budding international success.

Masahiro explains that he uses life as his source material, not other architects' work. He will take bike rides, travel to different areas of the country, spend time with artistic friends—and, sometimes, he admits, hang out in his bathroom for long stretches of time, letting his mind drift.

This cerebral approach suits their rather spiritual attitude toward architecture: Create a true living environment, and your work is no longer a matter of four walls and a roof; in fact, the aim should be to destroy the “house.” This emphasis on environment has resulted in several exquisite works, including the Sakura or Cherry Blossom House, a project completed in 2006.

When first envisioning the Cherry Blossom House, the three architects harkened back to the Farnsworth House, designed by Mies van de Rohe, in the woods near Plano, Illinois. While its natural setting gives the structure a tranquility, its glass paneling serves both to separate and unite the structure and its surroundings.

Though greening the gray streets of Meguro wasn’t a possibility on their client’s budget, Masahiro and Mao decided to abstract this idea of the forest. They perforated 3 mm-thick sheets of steel with the traditional Japanese ‘Sakura’ or cherry blossom pattern. Once erected, the white, lace-like walls enfold the house, imbuing its interior with a calming, sun-filtered ambiance.

Cherry Blossom House ExteriorCherry Blossom House Exterior Photo by Ryota Atarashi