Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to hear two different Japanese architects speak about co-housing projects they designed. Putting the model of delivery aside which is a little unclear, what impressed me most about both projects were their intent to give back to their local economy in small yet impactful ways. The Japanese also have a great design sensibility for small space living. Here is a brief overview of each.
Apartment 2, Nish-Kasai, Tokyo by Komada Architects
Takeshi Komanda says he sees building in cities as building "small ponds". The metaphor of the small pond conjurs the image of cycles of flow and life - of activiation. The cohousing project named simply "Apartment 2" (2018) is on a small urban block of 284.69m2. The project provides 6 rental apartments, a co-working space, a communal rooftop and a street level bakery/cafe. The owners of the bakery live in one of the apartments. The project also provides a ground level space for cultural workshops.
Despite the small site area, the project creates a side alley which becomes a lively public space as locals come to buy and dine at the bakery/cafe. Really interesting to me is the use of a winding veranda like corridor that connects the four levels like a street.
"Housing with Small Economy" by naka Architects
Yuri Uno and Shiharu Naka say that alternative housing models are needed to meet the needs of residents and also give back to the local economy - by allowing local efforts to circulate locally. In their project named "Housing with small economy" (2014) they sought to build a housing project "open" to its local community. On a very small corner site, the mixed use project provided a small street level resturant, 5 SOHO apartments over three levels, a co-sharing office/studio space and a "Roji" (communal alley up through the building linking the uses).
No matter how small a co-housing project is, the building group can set an intention from the beginning to contribute to the local community and economy wherein it is located. To restate the metaphor: "building a pond that will attract local life within its surroundings". Both projects do this by creating: (1) a commercial space for a local business, (2) adding to the public domain, (3) providing co-working space that can be accessed by others in the community as well as residents, and (4) designing small dwellings with beauty.