YOKOHAMA – If there would be a singular defining stereotype for Japanese residential architecture, the pristine white box would surely be a serious contender for the title. Although this has never been particularly true, the recent series of exceptional houses from the land of the rising sun – among them also Makiko Tsukada’s latest project – continue to challenge such entrenched ideas.

Located on a narrow, kinked plot in an undulating part of Yokohama, the Grass Cave house projects a series of robust grassy platforms, which contain the small house, as well as forming a continuous topography with the adjacent street and hillside. Entering from the street, a large platform looms overhead, supported by a series of impossibly slim steel columns. The inhabitants of the house can park their car underneath and enter their home.

Inside, frosted glass lets in plenty of light, while maintaining privacy, and the dark-stained plywood ensures a calm, cave-like atmosphere. The private space is located on the ground floor, at the back of the house, while the circulation route continues through a sequence of levels, culminating in a tall, top-lit living space, affording a view through the house onto the outdoor terrace.

Another crucial feature is a central core, which not only houses a pantry and a bathroom on the first and ground floor, respectively, but serves as a light well, a ventilation stack and a stability core – in face of Japan’s frequent and potentially dangerous earthquakes. Indeed, the house synthesises typical elements of Japanese architecture with a careful reading of context into a dark, but surprisingly bright and sensuous cave.

Photos Shinkenchiku-sha