MIYAGI – Located in the northern Miyagi prefecture, E House is the first residential project completed by Hannat Architects, a Tokyo-based firm founded in 2012. The client – a relative of one of the partners – wanted to build a family house there for a couple of years, but the 2011 Tohoku earthquake changed his plans.

‘The subsequent tsunami never reached the site and none of buildings in this area were damaged by the earthquake. But building material and contractor costs all increased rapidly as all manpower focused on recovery of coastal areas after 2011,’  says Risa Tsutsumi, one of the firm’s two partners.

The rising costs meant that architects had to be inventive: ‘We have chosen materials that are inexpensive and easy to obtain, such as plywood and cement fibre board, and a construction method – timber post-and-beam construction – that the local contractor could work well with,’ Tsutsumi continues.

Situated at the foot of the mountain, the house is surrounded by it on three sides, leaving only its sunny southern side with a view of the rice fields. ‘A traditional way to protect the buildings from cold seasonal winds in this region is with an “igune”, a grove of trees surrounding the house and the garden, so having this house surrounded by the mountain and forest is a natural approach.’

The house itself is organised along a curved axis, a tall corridor clad in dark, stained plywood, which eventually leads to a rooftop terrace. Along this axis, the architects have skilfully organised a series of bright rooms and patios, with carefully framed views of the surrounding landscape. The spatial impact of this house owes much to the clear articulation of light and dark, as well as subtle level changes and visually minimal details – all reinterpreted and updated from the traditional Japanese way of building.

Photos Koichi Torimura