Kengo Kuma Rethinks Japanese Poet’s 3-Square-Meter House

Kengo Kuma, the architect commissioned to design the Victoria & Albert Museum in Dundee, has just completed a project on a significantly smaller scale in Kyoto, Japan. The three-square-meter Hojo-an is a building, pavilion, and sculpture, all at once, and — in a half-serious sense — a challenge to New York City’s much-ballyhooed micro-units.

Kuma’s latest completed project re-imagines the “humble cottage” of famed literary recluse Kama no Chomei (1155–1216). The poet is said to have renounced society, retreating to the fringes of Tokyo to build and live his remaining years in a compact abode inspired by the dwelling of the Buddhist recluse Vimalakirti. As an unintended consequence, the hut allegedly became a prototype for Japan’s famously compact housing, according to Designboom. Kuma brings attention to this historical footnote, building a modified replica of the historic “cottage” out of cedar bars, magnets, and soft plastic sheathing. The translucent box reintroduces the idea of the human-scale house in a contemplative structure that currently sits in Japan’s oldest Shinto shrine, Shimogamo-jinja.
Photos courtesy the architects.
- Kelly Chan