Smallness is a quality that can be enjoyed. It is also a quality that in architecture can turn into spare beauty on a human scale. Geography has always played some part in Japanese building, with space a constant consideration because of the narrowness of the country, within which large areas are mountainous and unsuitable for building. Japanese architects, especially in modern times have taken this limitation as a challenge and arrived at solutions that turn smallness into highly livable and innovative housing.
The photographs below are from Space: Japanese Design Solutions for Compact Living by Michael Freeman. The house pictured is in the Tokyo suburb of Hachioji, built on a steep slope right at the limits of practicality in an architectural sense. It is situated on a narrow access road too steep for vehicles, one that also serves several other conventional dwellings. Architects Akira and Andrea Hikone wanted to avoid leveling the ground because of the greater limitations that would impose. They decided to experiment with a shape that would fit the ground rather than fight the slope. They call it a triangular section.
This photograph shows a view of the exterior from the rear looking downhill. The town of Hachioji is downhill on the right.
A double bedroom for the two boys, who enjoy its den-like atmosphere. Several skylights set into the sloping roof make the space bright and airy. Not visible is a glass facade extending up from the ground creating maximum enjoyment of the view overlooking Hachioji.
The living room downstairs faces out through that same double-height glass facade.
A view of the kitchen and dining area looking out onto a back garden
Take a look at another clever use of space in a backyard soy barrel house in Ibaraki, Japan.