My House
Designed by Seike Kiyoshi, 1953

              Photographed by mirutake 092005


An Interpretation on ' My House' by Seike Kiyoshi

The memorial exhibition of the late Seike Kiyoshi had ended.
I went to both the symposium which had been held afterward and a bus tour to visit his works(30 people were allowed to sign in). We visited the office building, Nomura Kogeisha, the residence at Kugahara and 'My House'( although this was not on the list at first, we were fortunate to be invited to visit both 'My house 2 and 'My Son's House' as well).It was not only facinating for me to be able to see the architect's works in real but memorable that it included the one-room home for a husband and wife right after the war which was at the same time the architect's home where he and his family lived

 As we approached the house from the street, I noticed a long tall wall enclosing the site with ferns. Enclosed by the ferns. it gave a protected impression blocking the outside view. When we entered inside the site we were led to approach the house building walking through the garden. ( We were informed that originally, the visitors came into the site passing by the house. However, in this way the visitors would be coming in directly from the street that later the entrance was made at the end of the garden.) When I held the large garden in sight, it didn't feel blocked up at all. A large zelcova stood and held the wide sky. Why, this kind of enclosement seemed to be more like a court house. A court house with a large yard. Just as we were about to enter the house, Seike's daughter welcomed us and to my surprise, pulled the famous sliding glass door facing the terrace open. I was very impressed that the glass door was in active service as ever

Then, a young man, probably a student, stepped inside wearing his shoes. As I was the next to get in, I almost stepped in with my shoes on just like him, but of course I found myself hesitated. As a matter of fact, his daughter then warned us that the shoes had to be taken off and I finally was ready to step on the terrace. Although the andesites which floored the terrace were sandy, those used in the living room were shining black. As I touched the stone it felt cool on the lingering summer heat. In this touch of stone, it would feel nice to lie down. Afterward, I was able to spend some time here in calm pondering over the relationship of the inside and outside.

   Getting inside, the first thing I noticed was the long time span which the old painted bookshelf must have had endured. This was the first time I came here but I found myself feeling nostalgic. Is it only the board that divided inside and outside? ( I forgot to check this point at the place but as I saw the plan it said,' plastered board with scratching finish.')
The place was jammed with visitors, but standing on the living room facing the garden I observed the inside space. I looked up at the ceiling in reinforced concrete. I could see the joint reflected on the concrete clearly. The room was a little dark which matched with the stone floor and it would hold a calm atmosphere. (when there are not as many people as this time) Side lighting was done.

I watched at the window by the bed room space. The glass block had been in use already. The wall was not the reinforced concrete but polished artificial stone finish. So much time and effort must have been spent. The bed had been removed.(It went to be exhibited.) I went down to the basement space. It was used as the study space at first and later used as the children's space, The total area is 50+20-70m2 (21.2 tsubo)

I must go and see the wash room. There was no toilet. The pipe had been left out taped. Was there a shower provided originally? I remember there was a bidet. The wash room had been reconstructed together with the bathroom in the back.
Then I went to the kitchen space. Naturally speaking, it was no longer as it had been before. I felt it very narrow.
I observed the joinery, threshhold and the lintel in the living room. The lengthwise frame was incredibly thin to be made of concrete. About 70mm. Polished artificial stone finish. It would support the structure. The large window on the left side. It was no longer movable. It was stored at the lower part.
It was to my surprise that the house was made of reinforced concrete. I heard about it at the symposium and was astounded. I had been thinking that it was wooden made. The joinery comprised the plane as the exterior of this house. The houses constructed before this 'My House' which were built based on the same design concept were all wooden made. In this architect's house, it seems that the noninflammable housing had been proposed and an experiment on prefabrication had been done. Before this, there were housings in reinforced concrete designed by architects composed of concrete wall plane. It was continued to be built this way even after Seike's proposal. However, it can be said that all of these, whether composed of wall plane or column and beam, stress the strong reinforced concrete. On the other hand Seike's concrete residence surpasses these reinforced concrete made housings. Although it is sometimes bantered as joinery architecture, the invention of lightness and the openness in reinforced concrete architecture could be acclaimed to be in line with Mies van der Rohe.( This point has been suggested by Fujimori Terunobu *1)





Steel truss, curtain and take out rack, marble for the entrance part,
Teppeiseki(Andesite) floor, lift-away tatami mats, built in bookshelf over the whole wall inside

I noticed the soil space in between the andesites. Had it been this way from the beginning?




Now the visiting experience is becoming expression.
However, it has been only two months since the visit. There are many themes to be coped with. The main theme may be that this is the first one-room home for a husband and a wife after the W.W.II. I wish to grasp afresh on what this one-room home mean.

Usually, the rooms are designated according to its function: living room, dining room, kitchen, bed-room, wash-room, bath-room (there was no bath-room provided inside 'My House'). In the case of one-room home, the function is designated in zones and the whole space is continuous as one space and not divided. What does this mean,especially for a married couple, the husband and wife?
From my personal experience, I can say that it means there is no space to be alone.
Antecedent to the new modern sense of husband and wife with independent bed rooms to secure the individual space, it was not necessary to secure individual space for each of the couple. It was the beginning of the age where 'the husband and wife were mutually united as one'.

  Making of one-room home may have symbolized the new born sense of united husband and wife after the war. We can see the will to express this concept: 'let's realize this.We can do it.' Or perhaps it was this way, it expressed the hope to start from that point. In the time and space after the WWII, the bright image of American married couples presented to Japanese people may have had the influence.*2

On the idea of setting a wash-room opened without the door, we are able to see this hope(thoroughness). For many years I remember thinking that this idea came about by coincidence. When I thought about my own way of living, I thought may be I could take it but I didn't think that I could be that bold. However, this is the architect's own home to present most innovative solution. Moreover, the most advanced apparatus, bidet, had been in use. This was a symbolic item to show that the place had been provided for the married couple.

   According to the source, the new image of family where the relation between a husband and wife would be the core was suggested after the women's right to vote was adopted(1945) and equality of gender was written in the constitution(1947). In the American cartoons such as Brondy we saw husbands washing their dishes showing the liberal atmosphere after the war. How it was astounding to experience the liberal atmosphere of the age in real time. Can we now go as far as to conceive embarrassment in private moment of living solely by the couple , the beginning of the new generation of married couples? When this had been sensed, the meaning of 'My House' which was the first one-room home may break the surface in history.

Before the war the architects had already been making modern living housing where each rooms were designated according to function. However, this kind of modern living housing represented the home for the specific class, the middle class people, before the war. Placement of the maiden room showed that the house did not protect privacy of a married couple. It was only after the war that the one-room home, 'My House', by Seike Kiyoshi was made as a modern living home for every married couple..
  The residential scale of architecture was determined within the limit furnished by the financial corporation. And in order to ensure sufficient space in spite of the scale, it was considered most suitable to make it one-room. which expressed the unity of husband and wife at the same time. In the periods far back as Edo and Meiji the Japanese housing for general public (house for rent) used to be one-rooms. People converted the room function according to time of the day: as a bed-roomes,dining room and a living room to relax. Compared to such one-rooms for the general public in old days, this one-room house is far more large in area. In addition, however, this convertible style was criticized by Nishiyama Uzo as the obstacle to delay promotion of modern houses. *3
And yet, what would it be, the most important factor on constituting residential architecture? Is it the solution only to enlarge the area and subdivide the space according to function ? What was presented by "My House" may be concluded as follows. It was not to pursue modern living housing in functionalism as it had been. As a result of seeking what was most important for the residential space, he had picked up the unity of husband and wife. In that sense he had recalled the Japanese people's traditional way of convertible style of living, which people had been trying out many ways. Had not the architect found the path to realize modern style of husband and wife there ? *4
What I found out in the process of rediscovering one-room home this time was the relationship of a married couple and child. Since in the case of one-room home , the child is not bidden to go to bed alone in the different room, the children's room, this would mean something. No matter how old the child grows, the spatial relationship would be secured. A sense of relation between the parents and child would be protected along the growth of the child. During babyhood, he sleeps in the parents' space. As he grows up, he moves on to sleep in a different space (removable tatami) and the proper distance would be determined.

We can see how the intimacy with a little child cannot be neglected. This has been proved as an inverted proof when we see examples by bringing up children according to Dr.Spoch's method. The functionalism in his method tried to separate parents' and children's bedrooms. A little child had to sleep alone in his room. While parents sleep by themselves, why does a little child must be left to sleep alone in a different room? Today the time has come to think about whether this separation of parents and child would be appropriate for his growth. Is it so necessary for a little child to be separated from parents ? What had the functionalism brought about separating the parents and child ? The present chaotic situation of families may show the result of functionalism with excessive evaluation of educational achievement in family life.

Needless to say, one may inquire as to until when the parents and child could sleep together in one room. My experience tells that we started living in one-room space when we were without a child. As the children grew up and slept in children's rooms, we kept each doors left open. We could do so as we were accustomed to spend time in one room space since the children were babies. Or perhaps it had been a relief for me to see their sleeping faces without opening the door each time whenever I came home from work. We now live in 3LDK planning where rooms line from the entrance. Although my children are now grown-ups, the doors are still left open and the whole house is one room home space. This way of using the rooms may not work out unless the family members' relationship assure noninterference. A certain distance must be kept among each members. Whether the family can continue to live in one-room space depend upon the extent of noninterference.
In 'The Family Sense seen through the Architects' Homes' written by Serizawa Shunsuke, Serizawa refers to the ' Tower House' constructed by Azuma Takamitsu as one-room home vertically connected. He is suggesting on the sense of other between the parent and child in detail. *5

And at last, I must touch on the concept of unity of inside and outside in this work. The 'sense of bare foot' at 'My House' may give us a clue to explain the abstract nature space today.
In sense of 'wearing shoes inside' it is only on bed one can stay relaxed in bare foot. Seike wrote that at first he followed the American style of living and had worn shoes inside. It is presumable that by following this new style, he thought that it was possible to create a large space of unity of inside and outside , in connection with wearing shoes outside in the yard. When I looked at the photogragh of the planning carried in the architectural magazine, 'The New Architecture' ,which published this work, I found that the street had been graveled then. Was it not the period of time after the war when people had to spend hours outdoor? He may thought it out from the outdoor life people had to live at that period. The unity of inside and outside tried out here was to create a living room space inside united with the large yard.
('My House' was constructed in 1953 and it was carried in the 'New Architecture' in 1957. By this time Seike had written that he would apply wearing shoes inside.

But even so, the urban streets in this period were not yet all paved and the social condition was bad. Nevertheless, it was reported that the children and pets spent the united space of inside and outside in barefoot And it also said that one of his children was seen enjoying the warmth of floor heating lying on the floor. It can be said that how the person feels relaxed differs whether he could be in barefoot only on bed or on the whole floor. It is probable that Seike had changed the life style to Japanese way to take off shoes inside and get relaxed on floor. In sense of barefoot inside and, in order to conceive the yard as inside, the yard had to be a paved one and not graveled nor with lawn. The street outside the house site had to be paved as well and the yard had to be enclosed by wall. With all these requirements fulfilled, the most contemporary attempt at that time was possible to be realized. A step had been made already right after the war. That was the significance of andesite paved yard and andesite inside at 'My House'.

  Yes, what I want to observe closely here is that the paved yard was enclosed by tall walls protected from the street outside. We find a beginning of 'enclosed courtyard', a transition to the courthouse type architecture after the war.
It may be difficult to see it in the architectural magazine but this large yard is enclosed by tall walls. This is thus a one-room home with large yard + the courthouse. I think that the take off to abstract nature can only be realized protected from outside.

And now after confirming this aspect, it can be conceived in link with the meaning of lifting the house by piloti, which was pursued by the architects following Seike. Especially in the Mountain Lodge in Karuizawa by Yoshimura Junzo which was referred to in the last version, since it was constructed in the mountain lodge district with abundant greenery, it was not at all appropriate to enclose the site with tall walls. The house was therefore lifted up to secure privacy and leave the earth. It was aimed to enjoy enclosed by nature watching. This is abstract nature.

Moreover, it was also the same case with the urban houses in general. The rapid urbanization reduced the site area for the housing. People already saw no space left for accomodating the yard. However, the architects kept trying to open up to outside. What would be the solution to open up but secure the privacy simultaneously? Ando's ' small courtyard was the answer. This yard space was getting close to inside space more and more. It aimed to realize the sense of andesite floor where Seike's son had been lying at 'My House' outside.
Already it appears in many residential works which follow this one-room home, 'My House'


*1 Fujimori Terunobu "Original / Contemporary Houses Revisted"

*2 It was not as easy as this. I remember the American TV dramas such as "Father Knows Best" and " Run, Hurie" where, as a child, I was absorbed to see the scenes showing brightness and tenderness of a family life. However, you can well see how family issues have become crucial in US in today's films such as 'The Graduate' and 'Bowling for Columbine' and all others.
*3 The architect define this convertible use of the room in time shift, 'hosetsu. conversion' and introduces this concept as a style of living by the aristocrats in Heian Period. This concept of conversion can be developed today by taking this time axis according correlating with the growth of children's growth.
*4 < < Assertion by Professor Nishiyama Uzo, such as ' to divide the eating space and sleeping space' appear at the same period. Dividing the space to eat and sleep means to designate the rooms according to function and take the meal in the dining room and sleep in the bed-room. However, in terms of being a proletariat, I think it is reasonable to shift the room function, that is to spend meal time and sleeping time in one room in time sequence.>> "White Paper on 'My House' by Seike Kiyoshi.
I was astounded to find that it had already been suggested clearly here. This concept had already been proposed to the architects at that time. In this respect it is known that after Seike one-room homes were created by the architects repeatedly in variation, realizing the concept of united husband and wife, enlarging the area size. The climax would be the "Sky House" by Kikutake Kiyokuni. These sequences are written in detail in "Family Sense seen through the Architects' Homes"
*5 The significance of one-room home built after WWII is referred to in detail in Family Sense seen through the Architects' Homes Sense of Family seen through the Architects' Homes" by Serizawa Shunsuke.
http://www.alpha-net.ne.jp/users2/mirutake/serizawa00.html









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