A renovation project from Kyoto, Japan. Located in a tiny Kiya-machi Dori street, in the most narrow spot between of two rivers: small, but fast flowing Takasegawa canal and main river for Kyoto Yatsuyanagicho. It is the only place that you can see the both rivers from the street  (not visible in pictures though).

Originally the building was from 60’s (a guess by looking at older photographs) and it was renovated in 2010. It stands out due to an unusual burnt wood façade and a huge tree in front of it.

This building combines both worlds: the contemporary and the traditional one.

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house3

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I like this area of Kyoto a lot, in fact I just love it! In April 2012 I had participated in an architectural/urban planning competition of Takasegawa river (or canal) and it’s surroundings. So to keep long story short, during my last visit to Japan I decided to stop by Kyoto just to have a stroll in the area I spent so many hours working on,  all from a huge distance. And the walk was definitely worth the stop: I walked on foot the whole stretch of Takesagawa river (about 4 km) and the atmosphere was just magical. This little black building was a pleasant discovery as the particular spot is not covered by the google street-view (to prepare myself for the competition I virtually walked a lot in this area).

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house2

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This particular spot has a has a long history and plenty of stories to be told about. From 8th century it used to be an imperial garden with a mansion in this area. Nothing remains of the palace, but this tree, named Enoki is the only remain of the huge forest that once stood here. Enoki is revered as the sacred tree and it was selected as the “tree of pride for residents,” the city of Kyoto in 2000. That is reflected in the torii Daimyojin Enoki is enshrined in the back.

The tree is full of life: tiny green (and loud) parakeets were dashing in and out of the canopy, some huge mushrooms grow on it. Here, it feels as if the time has stopped.

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house4

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Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house

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This building is not only a shrine, but also an atellier apartment/artist residence. I had a quick glance at the interior: hight ceilings, exposed structure, contemporary lighting.

Kyoto Kiya-machi Dori shrine black house1

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This is the only perspective that pitched roof is visible. Approaching the house from the south it looks completely like a contemporary box (in contrast to very traditional or 80’s buildings in this area).

This is a second architect’s residence, that I visited and photographed. This time a classic modernist project form Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan. This wonderful building is built in 1966 (!) and it is designed by Takamitsu Azuma. He called this project  “Tower House” (“Tou no Ie” jpn.).
Built only on 20 square meters site this architectural masterpiece consists of 5 stories above ground and one level of basement. The ground level is garage, basement is a storage space, second level is living and kitchen, third level is a toilet and a bathroom, fourth floor is a bedroom and top room originally was designed as a child’s room.

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In the bottom right photo of the collage, you can see me hugging a corner of the building to show the scale of it (I have been there and it still bends my mind).

Inside all the levels are connected by one volume, shared by an inner “tower”. The idea behind it is about sharing the space, feeling one with everyone in the house, possibility for unverbal communication; one can easily hear, smell and feel what other people do in the house.

At the moment a grown-up child, who also became an architect,  Rie Azuma a daughter of Takamitsu Azuma and her family is living in the house. In the past she left her parents to live in the United States and after she came back her parents moved out. My personal guess is that for ageing parents it was becoming difficult to move up and down the number of stairs everyday. However out of respect to her father the name plate on the house still bears the name of Takamitsu Azuma.
The building is kept as original as much a possible. Some of the fixed furniture was replaced, but has been rebuild to the original design.

This amazing building is very well know in Japan, architecture students go thought this project, study it and make it’s models. Every month a number of visitors visit the house on a scheduled tour. I feel lucky to have dashed by this building and when seeing it my hands almost involuntarily grabbed the camera to photograph it.

Jet another amazing house nearby Kakumae, Tallinn. Officially already a bit further out of the city, in Lucca village. This house is designed by Indrek Allmann in 1999 and, as I found out, it received plenty awards and notifications in early 2000’s.

Well you can see the style of the period is evident, but nevertheless the house is really interesting. Surely it is interesting as the client is the architect himself :)
Completely elevated from the ground on steel structure, rooms on the cliff side have openings on the floor, exterior finish is wood (now weathered to almost metal-like looks) main stairs make it look like a tree house, I even assume it has a terrace on the lower “box”. Besides this house must have excellent views to the nearby sea and Tallinn in the distance.
Sadly this project makes me think of so many countries where projects like this, in natural surroundings, would be just impossible due to all kinds of regulations.

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Discovered while exploring the area, cycling, looking for picturesque pathways by the cliffs near sea, as the house is rather hidden on a very calm road. After discovering it, even came back to take better photos when the weather was more photo-worthy.

Some interesting architecture from Vilnius.

Apartment building in Ciurlionio street, Vilnius, Lithuania. Unusual, very Dutch-like approach. Namely: overall shape of the building; roof shingles are used for façade and the roof , what is usual sight in Benelux countries for side façades, firewalls to be protected from the rain. Also a bit like the famous MVRDV variations (Ypenburg, etc.). This apartment building was designed in 2007 by architect Palekas, one of my ex-professors.

Definitely different from the typical Vilnius or Lithuanian architecture of the last decade.

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Another handsome house from Kakumae, Tallinn.

Main elements: corten steel cladding, cantilevered front, swimming pool at the rear, small terrace, skylights, solar panels, existing trees preserved.

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Photos taken in autumn 2011.

Note smart use of cantilevered front for firewood storage.

A run down romanticism style palace in Jurbarkas region, Lithuania, on a right side of river Nemunas (here). Originally built in the mid 19th century. Falling apart, but still full of amazing details.

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This building is in private hands since 2005 and hopefully something will be (is) done with this haunted mansion. There is hope, as nearby castle was being renovated at the moment I was visiting the area.
Belveder means “beautiful to see” – a popular name for houses in picturesque areas around the world.


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