2011 – Shibaura House – Kazuyo Sejima

At first glance, Shibaura House appears as a tall, rectangular, white box. A closer look reveals three large terraces of different sizes and footprints, masked by stretch metal mesh. These volumes seem to be cut into the orderly outer structure. Diagonal beams keep the construction in place and form enormous, slightly puzzling K’s in a façade divided into a shifting pattern of rectangles. Glass panes screen the rest of the building, resulting in the reflecting semi-transparency of the exterior.

The rectangular outer contour disguises the fact that the building consists of a pile of concrete decks of various shapes. A section of the house demonstrates its spatial diversity, attested to by the varying ceiling heights. Each level seems to overlap the next, causing a sensation of flow between the floors. Curving staircases coyly emphasize this feeling.

The south-facing double-high first floor space is publically accessible from the street. It contains tables for working or reading and a coffee station. Plenty of lush green plants provide for a homely atmosphere. The second and third floors are lounge areas appropriable for various purposes such as meetings and cultural events and with access to two terraces. Rounded glass walls divide the spaces into smaller sections. Offices are on the fourth floor, while the corner ‘Bird Room’ on the fifth floor has a commanding view of the surrounding neighborhood. Its 90m2 have no partition walls in order to secure maximum functional flexibility.

Shibaura House is framed and structured by ten loadbearing posts around the façades, resulting in a square 14x14m footprint dividable into nine equal squares. Hence the building may be interpreted as a response to the famous nine-square grid exercise: This exercise was invented by architect John Hejduk in the 1950s and subsequently used at schools of architecture worldwide. The question is how to spatially divide a square, subdivided into nine smaller squares? Sejima offers seven elegant solutions: Curvaceous, yet simple.


Name: Shibaura House│Type: Office│Architect: Kazuyo Sejima│Completed: 2011

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2009 – Carina Store – Kazuyo Sejima

Carina is a small store next to busy Ayoama-street, designed by Kazuyo Sejima. The shop is wrapped in two façades. The inner façade is made up of a steel structure and large glass windows. The outer façade is made out of white expanded metal, similar to the weaves that were used for the New Museum at the Bowery in New York. The outer façade covers up almost the complete building, except for the entrance door and one window on the second floor. This is a daring approach as it provides an introspective look at first glance. But, as in many recent architecture in Tokyo, the shop comes to life when you take a closer look and even more so when dusk falls over the city.


Name: Carina Store│Type: Commercial│Architect: Kazuyo Sejima│Completed: 2009

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2003 – House in a Plum Grove – Kazuyo Sejima

A young couple with two children and a grandmother chose Kazyuo Sejima to be their architect. They valued her for being the author of works of architecture that was “light, clean and white, no bravado at all,” qualities that they thought would help to find the right tension between the privacy found in a dwelling and the public character of a house in a garden. “A shelter for the mind” and “a place to enjoy the blossoming plum trees in the garden”; these were the family’s wishes when they commissioned the house.

The site was only 92.30 m2 where beautiful plum trees and wild flowers grew, which made it look like a real garden inside this residential area. For a long time the couple had wanted to build their own house, a neutral house like a blank canvas with nothing to distract their way of living or raising their children. They rejected the idea that a house should represent economic power and attract attention. When Sejima first asked Miyako what kind of a house they wanted, she told her: ‘Something like a temporary perch’. The architect’s interest arose immediately. In the case of Sejima, observing people’s lifestyles, she questioned the validity of a conventional dwelling that consisted of a set number of bedrooms, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen. Fixed concepts were no longer valid in a rapidly changing society.

The house appears as a white closed cube as it is located in one of the corners of the site. The door is fused with the wall, the doormat and a small cantilever being the only signs of its presence. Furthermore, instead of conventional windows, a few flat, square cuts are made on the exterior walls, without any seeming order. The logic comes from the inside. Refusing to create stereotyped rooms with a collection of arranged furniture, Kazuyo Sejima proposed to reduce each room to particular furniture or an action. For instance, the bedroom of the children is composed of one room-bed and a room-table. In that way, 17 different rooms were created, which together were arranged on a 77.68 m2 floor area and distributed on two floors with the tearoom on the roof. Having such a small surface, it was used to its maximum.

The structure of the house is built with steel sheets, which reduces the thickness of the external walls to 50 mm and the interior walls to 16 mm. In that way, the structure, walls and the floors merge together and each part appears to have the same weight. Interpreting the idea of ‘a one room studio’, the architect connected the individual rooms. She made cuts in the internal walls of the adjoining rooms, and left them without any glass. This offered new possibilities. Some rooms look outside through another room’s window. The air flows freely through these openings from room to room, and the boy or his cat can enter or exit through these openings at will. No space is shut off completely. Consequently, offering such a choice of different actions, the idea of privacy turns elastic. The members of the family can choose their place according to their moods, wanting to be alone or with others.


Name: House in a Plum Grove│Type: Residential│Architect: Kazuyo Sejima│Completed: 2003

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2000 – Small House – Kazuyo Sejima

Small House is a tiny private residence designed by  Kazuyo Sejima (SANAA), in the affluent Aoyama district of Tokyo. Situated on a small infill lot measuring 60 m2, Small House is a bold example of architectural ingenuity amongst the dense similitude of the surrounding urban landscape. Completed in 2000, Small House is representative of simplistic design, encompassing a complex logic predicated on the principles of function, place, culture, and the intimacy of home. Small House delicately balances itself within the urban fabric of Tokyo; a representation of clean, modern architectural form imbued with layers of history, culture, and the embodiment of life.

The House is a small rectangular tower, its edges and surfaces skewed on the diagonal to create a dynamic geometrical shape. Its form provides unique contrast to the neighbouring residences; their planar surfaces demarcating the vertical and horizontal planes in the masses. It provides the outward semblance of bold form but maintains the identity and character of a private home; unique, individual, proportionately-scaled and intimate. The striking appearance of Small House is a testament to Kazuyo Sejima’s propensity towards form-finding as the fundamental means by which to achieve the embodiment of meaning, identity and presence in architecture. In her words, Sejima states that “architectural design can only proceed through forms. Making architecture, if we can say this without fear of being misunderstood, is surely a question of creating new forms … Designs are recognized by their forms, and moreover, the public or social aspect of architecture resides precisely in an understanding of the architecture and its relations to the structures surrounding it”.


Name: Small House│Type: Residential│Architect: Kazuyo Sejima│Completed: 2000

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2000 – RAGTAG – Kazuyo Sejima

RAGTAG is a second-hand clothes shop. It is located next to busy and bubbly Omotesando-area. The name RAGTAG means RAG = worn out TAG = label.  The building is a early design by Kazuyo Sejima (SANAA). It was completed in 2000. The elevation with frosted glass perfectly characterizes Sejima’s minimalist style. The translucid facade creats a specific light ambiance in the interior space. The steel structure is painted white and translates the claim of a minimalist architecture.


Name: RAGTAG│Type: Commercial│Architect: Kazuyo Sejima│Completed: 2000

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