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Tree time: A house with trees, Kagawa, Japan by Hironaka Ogawa.

Photo credits: Daici Ano, Hironaka Ogawa Associates.

The idea, common in Japanese domestic architecture, of a small internal garden, where the mind, if not the body can roam freely, is here developed in an unexpected way.

Hironaka Ogawa has designed a house in Kagawa, Japan, that incorporates two trees that, for the family that owns them, have become receptacles for a lifetime's memories. In that sense, they are regarded as spiritual custodians of the site. Although cut down during construction they have been incorporated into the new house in exactly the same position as they grew!

When a family wanted to build a new house to accommodate their daughter and her husband, the only site available was a section of the garden where two trees stood. Both were planted by the parents 35 years ago, and so were witness to the memories of growing children, happy and sad times.

Feeling the reluctance to cut down the trees required a response that saw them incorporated into the new house as ritual objects on an architectural scale.

When the trees were cut, the smaller branches and foliage were trimmed, and what remained was dried and smoked to reduce the moisture content. The trunks were then positioned in a 4m high space where it appears they support the roof of the house, although they have no structural function.

To observers unfamiliar with the Shinto religion, the trouble taken with the trees is entirely rational. Shintoists believe natural objects are manifestations of the divine will and their adoration of the spirituality of nature is an expression of both gratitude and love of the divinity.

Gratitude to Floornature.

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