Housing Development in Tokyo

Bird Park, an unusual housing development in the Ebisu district of Tokyo, is surrounded by multi-storey office blocks. Occupying a narrow urban site, the present building is situated in such a way that the residents of the six spacious apartments see very little of the neighbouring structures. The many trees along the south-eastern boundary of the site are up to 20 metres in height and were retained to lend the dwellings a special quality. “Little huts” attached to the main volume rise beneath the treetops. Housed in these individual oriel-like structures are the bathrooms, an introverted study/reading room and a large bedroom, the whole forming an annex on the east face of the building. The location and growth of each tree was surveyed with the aid of laser technology, and a 3D computer model was created. In this way, it was possible to determine the precise position of the small projecting volumes in relation to the trunks and branches. On the second floor, for example, a short glazed corridor links the two bathroom areas. The oriel structures, in a lightweight steel construction clad with hinoki wood, are simply cantilevered out from the main concrete facades in order not to damage the tree roots. The crests of the trees extend not only over these structures, but over the roof terraces, the pools and a tea pavilion in the form of a lightweight steel-and-glass cube, which seems to hover above the shallow pool of water. Inside the building, too, the trees assert their presence through the dynamic interplay of light and shade caused by their leaves. Large areas of glazing in the living spaces and the bedrooms form links between the indoor and outdoor environment, and the roof windows over the “little huts” ­enhance the impression of being in the open air at the heart of a wood. The experimental approach of this project can be identified in the sensation one has of living in a tree house combined with features of an urban studio. Here, in the dense metropolis of Tokyo, the architects have created a microcosm that conveys a feeling of peace and proximity to nature.
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