Situated in the Otowa district of Tokyo’s Bunkyo ward, the Modelia Days apartment building is very close to the Gokokuji temple, which was established in the Edo era (1603-1868) as a place of prayer for members of the shogunate, a feudal regime of Japan. Although the neighborhood is situated in the city center, it retains traces of those bygone days.
As is common for Tokyo, the apartments are small is size, ranging from about 250 square feet (20 square meters) to about 461 square feet (43 square meters). With 11 in all units, the apartment building is about 3,905 square feet (363 square meters). The only common areas are the entrance hall and the staircase.
The building is predominantly made with naturally colored gray concrete placed bottom to top on site. Its most striking feature is the window treatment. From inside, the windows appear sufficiently large, but on the outside the surface surrounding each one slopes in at an angle, creating a recessed “frame.” Some of the sloped surfaces are covered with hot-dipped galvanized steel sheets.
On the inside, some of the windows have a wooden frame-like shelf that echoes the rectangular shape of the recessed frames, creating a loose connection between interior and exterior. The architects say they wanted to emphasize the “square frame as a whole.”
The square-framed windows also enhance the inhabitants’ privacy. To avoid direct lines of sight between the apartment building and the residents of the single-family homes lining the other side of the narrow road on which it sits, the windows are shifted slightly off-center. The window arrangement also brings breezes and natural light into the building.
The units’ interiors have a very simplistic style and are composed entirely of white walls and unadorned concrete with all unnecessary elements eliminated. This minimalist design, which seeks the simplest possible form for an apartment building, is intended to link to a lifestyle unburdened by superfluous material possessions.
The architects say they envision the minimal elements of the apartment enabling a freer lifestyle for its residents. For example, the storage space enclosed by freestanding walls can also become a compact office, while the spacious concrete kitchen counter can serve as a desk.
The windows and wooden frame-like shelves in this building make abundant use of squares. “Once we have freed ourselves from convention of modern design that dictates either a horizontal or a vertical window,” the architects say, “squares may be the purest and most primitive shape for these openings.”
They say the most challenging aspect of this project was to conceive a residential building that would become a piece of art in its urban surroundings.
Project at a Glance
Project name: Modelia Days Gokokuji
Architects: Ryuichi Sasaki/Sasaki Architecture + Rieko Okumura/Atelier O, www.sasaki-architecture.com, www.atelier-0.com
Design team: Ryuichi Sasaki, Rieko Okumura, Gen Sakaguchi, Anna Kwapien, Marion Foulet
Producer: Hidetaka Gonai/Modelia Co. Ltd.
Light design: Natsuha Kameoka/Lighting Sou
Contractor: Magome Construction Co.
Building management: Alpha Management & Partners Co. Ltd.
Client: Nobumitsu Ohashi/Shuko Kensetsu Co. Ltd.
Location: 2-9-7 Otowa, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Total Floor Area: 3,905 square feet (362.79 square meters)