ON design partners: a life with a large opening
ON design partners: a life with a large opening ON design partners: a life with a large opening
dec 04, 2012

ON design partners: a life with a large opening

‘a life with a large opening’ by ondesign, tokyo, japanimage © ikunori yamamotoall images courtesy of ON design partners




located in the dense urban context of nezu in tokyo, japanese studio ON design has finished the residence titled ‘a life with a large opening.’ while houses are normally built as a single mass, the design was re-imagined within its slender site to provide an exterior space and all the benefits that accompany it such as natural light, ventilation, and a more dynamic circulation through the structure. the archetypal single-volume was broken into two thin forms in parallel, with a void almost right in the middle. the architects studied the use of exterior space in vertical buildings and integrated this in a private manner for the residents. the gap in essence defines the character of the dwelling, as the owners have a constant relationship with it, using it as a garden, an exterior, a balcony, a place to hang clothes.

contextimage © ikunori yamamoto




the thinner of the two masses contains the vertical circulation, aided by catwalks and the larger space to cross over into the actual functions of the house. the vertical living scheme contains the dining room, kitchen and some storage on the ground floor, followed by the bedroom and bathroom, and finally the study and living room on the top floor where the plenty of natural light illuminates a lively space. a thin wood frame construction maximizes the usable area of the interior so it doesn’t feel constricted, with a constant escape to the exterior and views always within arms reach.

gap provides many activities and spill-out zonesimage © ikunori yamamoto



catwalks connect the two structuresimage © ikunori yamamoto



vertical circulation within one volumeimage © ikunori yamamoto



(left) stairs for people(right) stairs for cats in the living roomimage © ikunori yamamoto



kitchen and dining areaimage © ikunori yamamoto



(left) kitchen(right) bathroomimage © ikunori yamamoto



living room and work areaimage © ikunori yamamoto



bedroomimage © ikunori yamamoto



site plan



floor plan / level 01. dining room 2. entrance3. warehouse/ storage



floor plan / level 14. bathroom5. bedroom



floor plan / level 26. living room7. workspace8. bathroom









aerial view of several balconies in the gap



project info:


place: nezu, bunkyo-ku, tokyoarchitect: osamu nishida+naoko mangyokusite area: 30.07 m2building area: 18.03 m2total floor area: 50.70 m2construction: shineistructure: ryuji tabata/asdphoto: ikunori yamamoto

  • Slim geniality! Very very beatiful

    Diego says:
  • This is by all accounts the worst piece of architecture i have ever witnessed. These “cool” japanese houses… How many of them actually is good for human living? This beats all though. Yes, a central void functioning as a light well could both look striking and fill a great function, but NOT on a property that only leaves you with two ridiculously narrow volumes. This cannot possibly be considered practical or even cozy in any culture or lifestyle. The only purpose this house fulfills is to look “cool” on design blogs such as this one. A good architect can make something stunning and avantgarde that still is practical for human beings to live in.

    Erik says:
  • no matter what you say.
    Illogical, captain.

    I guess the lady of the house wasn’t asked her opinion.
    They can’t even say they couldn’t get windows on the side boundary walls, cos they’ve gottem.

    mackenzie collins says:
  • Erik: perhaps you should personally visit japan and ideally, live there for a while to study the way they live as well as the space availability, especially in Central Tokyo. Then, you will understand the practicality of the lifestyle there.

    Mackenzie: if you look carefully at the photos and drawings, you will notice there are properties on the side boundary walls. If you punch a window on those walls you will only look into another blank wall – pretty pointless isn’t it?

    it is not the most beautiful project but very practical and cleverly designed for a narrow site.

    SF says:
  • SF: yes, i’m very aware of the space availability in Japanese cities. Which makes this project even less sensible. Why waste valuable space on a totally meaningless void that fills no practical function a more conventional layout also couldn’t achieve? Instead of using the entire footprint of the property they effectively manage to half the size of usable living space – on an already tiny, and i assume expensive, plot. Why?

    And if you look carefully at the floor plans you can see that in this house they anyway got FIVE windows facing the neighboring properties! Guess the void doesn’t even fill the already questionable function it was put the to fulfill in the first place! They could easily achieve the same (or most likely higher) level of natural light and ventilation with a more conventional floor plan. And a skilled architect could still make the house look cool on the design blogs – something that seems to have been the primary purpose for the owner of this house.

    In what context is this house practical as you say? There’s not one normally proportioned room in the entire house. It’s just two narrow corridors withe the primary functions squeezed in. I say it again, the only purpose of this house is to look “cool” and ground braking. Which it is – ground breakingly crappy.

    Erik says:
  • Welcome to my “ARMOIRE”!

    I totally agree with Erik. The floorplan is horrible – even for japanese. if a plot is only 3.5m wide and about the double long, how would you divide it? Lonside? No wideside! It was obviously the first concept the architects made without any forward thinking. The livingroom don’t fit in one of the parts? Hmmm? lets do a bowfront/ bow window.

    Sorry, but there are way better concepts for the same plot!

    The gap provides many activities and sSPIT-out zones 😉

    Kire says:

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