Wood might not be the most prevalent material of choice for contemporary architects, but there can be no doubt that seemingly inexhaustible options exist for using it creatively. One of the most common ways that wood is used in architecture today is as a vehicle for a kind of nostalgia. Many wood-heavy designs—that is, those that use wood not only as a hidden supportive framework but a key feature of the building's look—seem to represent a longing for simpler times. This is perhaps inevitable given that wood is so closely associated with traditional construction techniques and aesthetics, whereas nowadays we're more used to seeing buildings based around glass, steel and even cement, particularly in urban settings.
This house by Japanese architects Hara Urban Space Factory is highly nostalgic in its use of wood, drawing clear inspiration from the country's architectural history. At the same time, however, there is something very contemporary about the type of minimalism employed here. Although Japanese houses were traditionally very minimalist in their design—featuring very little furniture beyond mats and cushions for sleeping and sitting, and sliding screens (or shōji) in place of doors and walls—this house also features several elements that place it in the here and now. If that sounds worth a look, it is.
The exterior of the building is a good indicator as to what lies within, being geometric, blocky and uncomplicated. It's also a good indicator, of course, because a large part of the interior is in fact visible from outside, due to the large open space at the front. This window area can either be left open, as seen here, or closed over with a traditional-style paper and wood screen.
Inside the house, exposed wooden beams mirror the pale colour of the floor below. In the corner, a simple, old-fashioned fireplace provides heat for the building.
Negative space plays a crucial role in the way this house is designed, as exemplified by these steps. The gaps between them are as important a feature as the steps themselves.
With the screen closed across the front of the house, the space takes on a new, altogether more old-fashioned character.
Again, unused space plays an important role, in the form of the space under the simple table. It seems like a negative of the table above, mirroring its size and shape. From a certain perspective, this feature seems modern; but from another it is clearly traditional. In an old-fashioned Japanese house, such a space might offer a place for legs to go when sitting on the floor to eat.