Creator: Naohisa Kuriyama
Introduction Author: Brett Bull
Publisher: cocoro books
Date Published: 2008
Size: 8’3 x 5’9 x 0’3 inches
“How The Japanese Live Well In Small Spaces”
‘Small House Tokyo’ is a pocket sized showcase of the recent rise in Kyosho Jukata (micro homes) in Japan. The book itself is indeed tiny and comes with a cute covering slip (see the second image above). The introduction by Brett Bull explains how soaring property prices and lack of space created a niche market for tiny designer homes. ‘Small House Tokyo’ focuses on the works of seven renowned Japanese architecture firms.
The layout and size of the books seems to have taken inspiration from the homes themselves. Its amazing how many images are crammed in without the effect being overwhelming. It is a credit to the editing process and the design aspects of the layout. The photography itself is professional and depicts the stunning homes beautifully. It’s very pleasing to the eye and encouraging to read.
As for the buildings themselves, though I don’t usually like minimalism, the Japanese execute it with such masterly ease. Looking at the interiors of the homes in ‘Small House Tokyo’ throws into light how mediocre western attempts at minimalism are. The Japanese seem to truly embrace the look and ideology behind minimalism. The interior and exterior designs are so abstract (some would say harsh) that viewing the buildings is almost an otherworldly experience. The houses are bold and intensely modern, though this may alienate some readers sensibilities. Most of them are between 2-4 floors high. The restraints of space have created some unusual and adventurous constructions, including houses that are even L-shaped or hanging off cliffs.
One issue with ‘Small House Tokyo’ is the difficulty of understanding the context of the images without clear architectural drawings. It takes away from appreciating the design aspects and use of space. Though drawings are supplied for most of the houses they are often too small, don’t indicate floors or room functions, are sometimes written in Japanese and are also printed in lighter ink. Some architects only supplied illustrations of the four faces of the outside building (which can usually be seen in the pictures anyway). Clearer drawings may have been sacrificed for a more clean layout or perhaps the architects would not supply better quality drawings. Either way, the book would have benefited if the architectural drawing aspect was given more importance by the creators.
It would have also been good if information about the houses could have been included from the architect; for instance the challenges of construction, the material used and reasons for certain design choices. Though some architects have a few brief quotes in the introduction, they are otherwise absent from the book. Thankfully, a list of the architects websites are supplied at the end of the book.
This is essentially a micro book on micro homes. It is a preview into a wing of specialised architecture and also a part of modern Japanese culture. It is a good introduction, though readers who are wishing for greater detail should look elsewhere. The layout, houses chosen and great pictures make ‘Small House Tokyo’ a lovely addition to the bookshelf or coffee table.
Favorites include: sur (6) and vivo (9) – D3 Studio, Kitaura (12) and Nakano (14) – Soichi Kubo, G-n1 (19) and Y.Kennel (23) – Jun Ishikawa, Asanami (28) – K2 Studio
♥♥♥½ – 3½/5