Like most new apartments in Tokyo this one began as a series of closed rooms, slightly paranoid and inward looking, and ruthlessly functional. Rooms were connected by a perfunctory hallway, and the ceilings were a chaotic mess, shifting up and down in direct response to pipes, plumbing and structure.
Project Name: N Flat
Studio Name: Frontoffice Tokyo
Location: Minato-Ku, Tokyo
Design: Will Galloway, Koen Klinkers
Photography: Toshiyuki Yano
Without changing the plan, we were asked to create something like a new skin for the modest flat that would erase these generic spaces and create a place the owners could recognize as uniquely their own.
This idea of erasure is an important one, and suitable to our times, when architecture has lost its trust in spectacle and indulgence. In such a small space, and with no direct connection to the outside world, a kind of dissolved form offers depth where none exists and develops a human scale where humanity is apparently considered optional.
Building on this starting point the design is simple – materials are reduced to a series of plywood sheets, layered and repeated both horizontally and vertically to create a smooth movement between spaces. On a practical level these added planes make sense of the abrupt changes in ceiling height left over from the original plan, turn a generic door-lined hallway into a procession, and form a backdrop that emphasizes the singular view to the large park outside.
Hardware and mechanical systems are built into the wooden additions, while switches and other architectural features are used to form a simple design language to create a more contemplative atmosphere for the residents. The whole is clear, but it made up of small parts to bring back a sense of belonging and a human scale.
frontoffice is based in Tokyo and Toronto, and is currently involved with projects in Japan, Europe, and North America. The office grew from the shared interests of 4 PhD students studying architecture and urban planning at the University of Tokyo. With backgrounds in real estate, urban planning and architecture, the group began their professional careers in Japan at offices including Fumihiko Maki and Isozaki Arata before coming together to start frontoffice tokyo in 2008.
Their approach to design is grounded in research of the city and takes many lessons from a deep study of Tokyo itself. Recognizing the most significant challenge of our time is to manage massive change, we are focused on developing new ways to live in the city. The architecture and urban plans that emerge from that effort do not conform to a particular style but coalesce around an interest in bridging the human scale with the needs of a global civilization. We create pragmatic and comfortable places that take advantage of, and build on, the attributes of location, whether it is urban, rural, or somewhere in between.