FT architects designs its japanese 'stilt house' with influence from indonesian farmhouses

Oct 25, 2021

tokyo-based FT architects introduces a house on stilts as a thoughtful response to its complex site. the plot is located alongside a large lake with views to the south across the distant rice fields and railroad beyond. the design team considers these elements in the design of the elevated house. the living space is lifted a full story-height, at once celebrating views and opening up the ground floor plane to create an outdoor piloti space.

in plan, the house is organized as a nine-square grid. this logic informs both the interior spaces and the structural grid. inside, a large central living area is surrounded by four columns and diagonal supports, all expressed as exposed timber. while these structural elements divide the interior in to distinct zones, they maintain visual connections and a sense of openness — rather than the cloistered condition resulting from full partitions.

the team at FT architects designs its house on stilts for the architectural historian noritani nakatani. following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the historian embarked on his ‘millenium village project,’ and considered moving out of tokyo — finally deciding on the rural village of north-kanto where the stilt house was born. the house stands as a collaborative effort between the architect and historian, and a part of the millenium village project.

the request from the client was to make a timber stilt house that has a pleasant ground floor. timber is a traditional construction material in japan, and a stilt house is a practical typology for natural disasters like flooding. seeking to create this pleasant ground floor condition, the team looked to the farmhouses in indonesia as precedent. these elevated farmhouses have a simple structural frame reinforced with braces, and columns placed along the inner side of the exterior walls. this strategy creates an open and communal atmosphere along the ground level.

while designing the distinctive structure, FT architects noted the very few precedents of timber stilt houses with centralized columns. however, after shifting the diagonal elements from the joints of the frame, the structure progressed smoothly, diffusing the stress from the joints and keeping them simple. after shifting the braces from the structural frame, the hierarchy of the main structural frame, and the secondary diagonal structure faded away. the diagonal part became independent from the geometry of the structural frame and at the same time acquired a strong presence equal to it. even though each decision is rationally thought through, an entirely new type of diagonal structure emerged.

an engawa, or traditional japanese porch, looks over the scenery

the pitched roof integrates windows, letting in natural light from above

project info:

project title: stilt house

architecture: FT architects | @katsuyafukushima

location: north-kanto, japan

completion: 2021

photography: © shigeo ogawa