Cottage Shaped by Old Memories

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Blessed with balmy weather and an abundance of hot springs, the Pacific coast of the Izu Peninsula is a popular resort area. Its central mountains have a lingering atmosphere of timeless solitude. Here in an idyllic quiet forest stands a two-storey cottage with just 34 square meters of floor space. In spite of its small size, its serene ambience speaks to the spirit and provides an oasis away from the mundane world. The cottage is a retreat for ait producer Sakura Mori and her family. It replaces a villa built by her parents in 1968. Her parents were both lawyers and very interested in art and architecture. When the villa needed reconstruction in 1998. her parents, who knew of their daughter's profound affection toward this house, entrusted the task of managing the design and construction of the cottage to her.

Given an opportunity of developing a concept for the new house, Mori decided to draw upon her childhood memories and experiences at the family summer villa, which were deeply etched in her mind. From her countless recollections, she singled out the one that had left the most indelible mark on her. This was the memory of the time when she was a little girl and had woken up in the dead of night to find herself surrounded by darkness. The pitch-black room had intimidated her. At that moment, she had her first consciousness of tine existence of death. Mori believes that this incident has molded her view of life, as it was the fear of darkness, and the anxiety about what may come after, that made her aware of the importance of life. Mori asked Yasushi Horibe, an architect who is almost the same age as her. to design a new vacation home that incorporates her childhood memories. Although her experience was rather negative, she wanted the darkness in the cottage to signify not death but something meaningful such as renewal and rebirth.

One way to preserve the memories of the old house would have been to simply remodel it with the addition of new doors, windows and wall finishes. Another way was to reuse as much of the existing structure and material as possible in the making of a new structure But Horibe chose neither alternative, deciding instead to create a completely new meditative space that would still be capable of invoking Mori's memories of the old house. The result is a contemporary new cottage with an undulating, dimly lit space that flows through the entire structure. There are no partitions, and the doors and windows have been sized and located so as to give the cottage a feeling of spaciousness. The cottage is pentagonal—which is unique in Japanese architecture -and sits on the same spot as Mori's old family villa. What is left of the old cottage is its environmental feel, its dreamy space, and the surrounding trees in an approximately 400-meter garden. For Mori, however, it has a spiritual significance and a personal reminiscence that makes it more than a rebirth of a private home. Mori and the architect created this house as if it were a piece of "art work," which means the house is not really for daily living, but for the art of remembering what has gone by, for giving time to oneself and for thinking about one's past as well as the future.

The pitched roof is visible inside, and aids in the dreamy flow of space, especially when die subdued light is reflected on the wall. Soft light comes Into this room from the southeast window, which has been set deep into the room to shade it from direct sunlight.

Above: An FRP sculpture by Kyotaro Hakamata named "The Birth of Night" is displayed on the wall above the stairs.

Left: A dining room and a kitchen occupy the second floor. An axial pole is centered in the dining room as if to gather people around it. On sunny days, one can see the glittering sea from the window, far beyond the greenery. It is the same scene as was seen from the old house that was here before.

Opposite: The architect deliberately designed this window to be small, in order to frame and articulate a special part of the view outside.

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