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'sumu yakushima' stands in the wilderness of japan through regenerative architecture

Sumu Yakushima by tsukasa ono


The name Sumu means ‘to live’ and ‘to become clear,’ and designer Tsukasa Ono saw these two elements when he stepped in to work on the residential project Sumu Yakushima on the island of the same name, 60 kilometers from the southern tip of Kyushu in Japan. Ono turned to regenerative architecture as his primary concept, a personal means to reconceptualize the relationship between human habitation and natural surroundings.


Gone are the concrete-based materials that present architecture embodies, replaced by slabs of wooden construction that tie in with the gifts of the Earth that grow naturally within the territory. ‘Rather than being a discrete site, the design takes a holistic view of the entire river basin, from the mountains to the sea, making a positive contribution to natural processes,’ Ono writes for designboom.


sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
images courtesy of Tsukasa Ono and Sumu Yakushima | exterior, all buildings and decks are raised floor style.



Ono invites the residents to make positive impacts while living within the alcove of Sumu Yakushima. As an experimental housing cooperative jointly created by eight owners, the cabin in the woods tends to nature and reflects on the architectural climate the present undergoes through the home’s conscious use of materials. For Ono, regenerative architecture underlines the defining feature of Sumu Yakushima where the designer and his team combine traditional Japanese civil engineering with contemporary technology.


Cutting back on time invested in manual labor to focus more on efficiency, all while guaranteeing the solidness and quality of the structure. The use of advanced technology in architecture does not mean giving birth to a home that cannot weather the roughness of nature, but rather perusing its capacities to materialize a residence that stands against the test of time.

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
buildings are placed around the symbol tree



Regenerative architecture for Sumu Yakushima


Tsukasa Ono and his team considered three elements for the design of Sumu Yakushima. It was imperative for the design team to lift up the construction and afford a space underneath to create an underground environment. They studied the flow of water by the river that sits in proximity and the air that could pass through the house, brought about by the myriad of trees enclosing the home.


They pursued creating an ongoing connection with nature through architecture, hence the use of natural materials and terrain. ‘Sumu was adapted to fit the surrounding landscape without cutting down large trees or leveling the ground,’ Ono writes for designboom.

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
dining room



The design team raised the wooden architecture from the ground. They punctured the blocks of wood into the cement and formed the foundation of the home. Leaves graze the elevated house with its new height. Slabs of wood make up the platform and floor, and the design team carved a space for the surrounding trees to let them keep growing instead of having to cut them down.


Inside, the Japanese bible of minimalism blesses the house with its holy earmarks. Wooden panels, doors, furniture, and fixtures complement the white paint of the rooms. No disruption in the view. The cabin, from its roofs and decks to its design cues, regenerates architecture and rejuvenates residents.

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono



‘Nature is something people both enjoy and fear, with the beauty of the sea and forest juxtaposed against the formidable power of typhoons and heavy rain. The interiors are a simple combination of local wood and plaster that beautifully frame the forest and coastline, fostering deeper connections with nature by allowing residents to admire it from a protected space,’ Ono writes for designboom.

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
lounge area connecting to the main deck



Sumu residents adopt a regenerative lifestyle


Sumu Yakushima has private cabins and communal facilities that are separate buildings but connected by outdoor paths, incorporating walks through the forest into daily activities. The adventure constantly evokes the sensation of life in harmony with nature.


True to its concept of making a positive impact by living among nature, Sumu residents adopt a regenerative lifestyle that enhances the environment through everyday activities, from collecting driftwood for use as firewood to clearing grass to allow cool air to flow through in a way that benefits the landscape.


‘Energy is provided by off-grid energy from solar power, storage batteries, and local firewood without fossil fuel,’ Ono writes for designboom.  ‘Sumu’s design changes our relationship with nature. It enables residents to discover new possibilities for interacting with nature and adapt the way they think and act, building relationships with nature that transcend generations. Its unique approach has the potential to accelerate environmental initiatives if more widely applied.’

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
raised floors promote the natural airflow from the hills to the sea



The housing cooperative is a treasure hunt. Residents traverse the dense nature and breathtaking scenery that dot the surrounding landscapes, even before witnessing Sumu Yakushima unfold before their eyes. Towering peaks of the nearby rugged mountains have their feet flowing with the natural stream of the river.


The abundance of ancient Japanese cedars in the forests emit a waft of earthy scents fused with tinges of nature’s native fragrance. The wisdom of nature brushes against the glimpses of the wilderness, and Sumu Yukushima finds its home within these braids of the Earth, coming into sight as the next retreat destination.

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
foundation with natural stones

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
bedroom with ocean view

sumu yakushima by tsukasa ono
bathroom overlooking the pacific ocean



project info:


name: Sumu Yakushima – Regenerative Life Studio

designer: Tsukasa Ono

author site: Tsukasa Ono



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions’ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: matthew burgos | designboom

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