Details

Keywords Change this

Concrete

Project timeline

September 1975 – May 1976

Type

Private House

Location Change this

Nakano-ku
Tokyo
Japan

Current state

Demolished

Also known as Change this

U House

Architect Change this

Gross floor area Change this

150m²

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Article last edited by Maria Thuroczy on
March 21st, 2013

White U (house) Change this

Tokyo, Japan
by Toyo Ito Change this
1 of 18

Description Change this

White U was designed for the Toyo Ito's older sister, who had just lost her husband to cancer.

The widow requested a house for her and her young daughters where they could enjoy the close contact with the soil and plants that their former home had lacked, but also have privacy and encourage communication between the family members. She also suggested that the house be L-shaped to enable all members of the family to have visual contact with one another. By coincidence, the site next to the architect's house was for sale. In the widow's conversations with the architect, the emphasis on organising functional spaces gradually disappeared and instead turned more towards the symbolic value of the space. Thus the house changed its initial L-shape to become a concrete construction with a U-shape, a form that would create greater light effects and a stronger relationship between the inhabitants.

Architecture

The bent linear space of the house was squeezed on both ends into dark corridors which ended on the one side at the girls' rooms, and on the other -- passing through the kitchen and bathroom - at the mother's bedroom. Because of the specific geometry the living space needed no walls to separate playing, dining and meditating. All surfaces of the multi-use space, including the carpet were white which reinforced the powerful light effects coming from the few carefully positioned and shaped accent openings. All these characteristics created an abstract, almost two-dimensional space like a screen upon which only the inhabitants' shadows and lives were projected.

Demolition

The story, as told by Toyo Ito, reaches its conclusion twenty-one years after the completion of the house, when the family was ready to re-establish its links with the outside world. The older daughter who moved out first later claimed she had never thought of whether or not it was comfortable to live in the house, although she refers to the house as a coffin. The mother also moved out, but being a musicologist she had enjoyed the music echoing on the bare walls in the old house. The youngest daughter was the last one to move out. She felt she had developed certain sensitivity for aesthetics in this house and later she became a museum director. The house was demolished in 1997.

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