A balcony has a free existence, even inside a house. With neither its function nor its user specified, it can be used in multiple ways; for example, it does not matter if it gets dirty from exposure to the weather. It brings residents relief and offers them relaxation, as well as enjoyment. While a balcony has an elegant presence, it is also solid. It is a presence that tends to be forgotten, but it is unforgettable. A balcony.
This project is located in Shitamachi, Tokyo’s highly atmospheric old downtown district. With people inviting friends into the doma area of the house, calling out to their kids from the balcony, or greeting folks from their shop, this is a part of town where communication is still alive and well.
The owner decided to build a house for his family of three on the land where his grandmother once lived. With his wife, uncle, and a childhood friend and neighbor of the mother, verbal communication easily came to life from the doma, the balcony, and the windows. When thinking about the owner’s large family combined with this place, we felt that the windows and the balcony influenced both the inside and the outside, acting as a vehicle for communication that was coming to life.
In particular, this space was constructed with balconies projecting inwards from the windows on all four sides of the building; whereas normally, they would project outwards. This creates a configuration that forms each of the interior spaces.
These balconies protruding from the inside of the house create spaces for family members to dwell in. These spaces have an open and transparent quality to them; unlike the clear, fixed outlines that typically characterize a room. Family members can call out: “It’s time to wake up!” from the balcony. They can wave their hand saying: “Good morning” while heading towards the kitchen. The project has a sense of proximity that allows someone standing on the balcony to call out to either a friend outside, or a family member inside the house: “Why don’t you pop up for some tea?” This gives people a sense of excitement about visiting as they walk up the stairs.
The roof-covered doma is a place where the bicycle can be repaired or where the children can play. It also acts as a community space, with the family owner’s uncle or friends calling out from the balconies of their homes. Inside, the first floor acts as a family space, rather that a doma. The aim was to create pleasant spaces that have an easy sense of connection to both the inside and the outside for each of the balconies that project inwards from the windows.
The project has inherited Japan’s old style of communication, where one could call out to people from the balconies that overlook the streets.
＊ Doma: an indoor room that is treated in the same way as the ground, and that can be used as one pleases.