Project team:

Architects: Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Co.Ltd.; www.nakam.info

16. Oct 2015

People who live in glass houses should not build with stones

Text: Joachim Ritter
Photos: Koji Fujii / Nacasa & Partners Inc.

For many designers and clients, bringing nature and natural effects inside buildings, especially private homes, is the optimum approach, but is often doomed to failure when confronted with the reality of the urban environment. Too much urban space and traffic, and too little private sphere. Unless the garden becomes an integral part of the living space and the windows in the wall of the house are replaced by a semi-transparent glass facade. Then even the city itself can become a green space. A model for the future?

Nothing offers more in the way of visual tension, and at the same time natural ambience, than the light and shadow effects generated by the sun. The natural reference for the human being, as an animal, are the patterns generated by light filtered through the leaves on trees and reflected sunlight on water. Such concepts are not feasible using standard format windows; they would appear to call for extensive glazed surfaces – at least. And this the crux of the problem: glazing has its constructive limits. Around 40 years ago, the building industry came up with what they thought at the time was a convincing solution. In the seventies, so-called glass bricks became extremely popular. But the time was not ripe for applying the new building material with design intent and the almost heavy-handed way the glass bricks were used was soon rejected as being drab and uninteresting: the glass brick became an example of a shortlived fad. When applied competently, however, glass bricks can offer a number of advantages – and what we humans like: lots of light, semi-transparency in both directions, and the potential to generate natural light patterns, which on the one hand appear to be structured and yet offer scope for diverse effects. This natural paradox is important for us humans. On the one hand, a house and the private environment it incorporates expresses an individual structure and arrangement of contents, while on the other hand we need the kind of unconstrained playfulness that we can achieve through lighting effects contained in glass. We need a feeling of privacy and the feeling that we are not being observed, but still we value the view outside, which is psychologically important for us so we do not feel shut away but part of the natural order of things.

All this is somehow contradictory and from a logical point of view seemingly unsolvable. But there are ways of addressing these issues. […]

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The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 99

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