Preserving Tradition: Roovice and Cabbage Truck’s Collaborative Renovation of a Centennial Row House in Sumida, Tokyo.

Project Name: Mukōjima Row House
Studio Name: Roovice, Cabbage Truck
Construction: Roovice + Cabbage Truck (Hikaru Watanabe)
Photography: Akira Nakamura

Mukōjima Row House by Roovice, Cabbage Truck-Sheet2
©Akira Nakamura

A short 10-minute walk from Hikifune station in Sumida, an old row house has been given new life. Roovice, in collaboration with the woodwork and architectural studio Cabbage Truck, undertook the revitalization of this historical property, which boasts a heritage of over a century.

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©Akira Nakamura

The owner, who inherited the house from his elderly father and resides in another city, found it difficult to maintain the property. This challenge led him to participate in the Kariage initiative. Through this program, Roovice renovates and subleases old vacant houses at no cost to the owner, addressing Japan’s growing issue of akiya, or empty properties.

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©Akira Nakamura

Respecting the building’s historical significance, the renovation began with essential seismic updates, including the installation of new dampers to enhance the structure’s earthquake resilience. The focus then shifted to the interior, where efforts were made to preserve original features while modernizing key areas like the kitchen, bathroom, and toilet.

One of the house’s unique charms is a round-shaped wooden step at the entrance. During the renovation, the entrance wall window was opened, flooding the living room with natural light and revealing historical materials within the wall. The top part of the wall was left exposed to showcase traditional construction methods, highlighting the authenticity of the craftsmanship.

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©Akira Nakamura

While the first-floor layout remained largely unchanged, strategic adjustments, such as moving the separating wall, created more space in the kitchen and bathroom. Unnecessary walls were removed to create an open space. Original bathroom tiles were preserved, maintaining a link to the house’s past, while a new kitchen unit from Toolbox blended tradition with modern convenience.

Upstairs, dismantling the walls of a traditional Japanese storage unit, oshiire, revealed a captivating wallpaper collage, which was preserved as a piece of art. Rawan flooring added warmth and character to the newly created spacious room, where a mix of old and new ceiling boards maintained the house’s authenticity while ensuring structural integrity.

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©Akira Nakamura

Throughout the renovation, the goal was to balance honoring the past with embracing the future. By breathing new life into this row house, Roovice and Cabbage Truck have revitalized a piece of architectural history and offered a model for addressing Japan’s housing challenges with respect for tradition.


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