façades of concrete and glass enclosing five private courtyards characterize this dwelling in nagano, japan, designed by architects hiroi ariyama and megumi matsubara of ASSISTANT. the clean lined, low- rise house is sited in the heart of a forest and serves as a guest house alongside a private gallery displaying the owner’s extensive art collection.

all images © daici ano / ASSISTANT architects



the building itself is square in plan and ASSISTANT developed the architecture to maximize sunlight in every room. the interplay of the courtyards and connection to the natural landscape was one of the concepts in the ‘it is a garden’ residence. in turn, the volumes have been subtly constructed with slanted ceilings and built with angled walls. the exterior roofs tilt vertically inwards to invite light and influence the play of light and shadow. at the same time the use of black glass produces a kaleidoscopic effect from reflecting the trees and plants from each courtyard.




the five courtyards defined the organization of the programs. all facades of the building are constructed from concrete and black glass, clearly dividing the interior space from the external environment. the interior ceilings and floor levels consequently create rhythmical geometry to support the simplicity of the exterior.  furthermore, all rooms are designed to look out towards a courtyard– each of which is distinct in character.

the house was designed as a guest house containing a private art gallery

each room faces onto one of the five courtyards

the flat and square dwelling features a floor plan entirely defined by five courtyards alone

the concrete walls and black glass is used to clearly define the interior from the external  environment

hiroi ariyama and megumi matsubara follewed the the concept of vertical interplay of the sun with the horizontal
connection to the natural scenery

glass doors sub-divide the interior spaces

contemporary furniture decorate the house

black glass produce a kaleidoscopic pattern

each room is permeated with natural light

the house opens its reinforced concrete roof to the sky in order to create five courtyards

‘it is a garden’ house by hiroi ariyama & megumi matsubara




project info:



project name: it is a garden
architecture firm: assistant / hiroi ariyama & megumi matsubara
completion year: 2016
total floor area: 475 sqm
built area: 523 sqm
structural engineer: konishi structural engineers
construction company: niitsu gumi
site area: 2963 sqm
project duration: 36 months








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