4 × 4 House

Tadao Ando (*1941)

Today we’ll be looking at a residential house by one of the leading Japanese architects, Tadao Ando. He is an interesting person—a former boxer with no formal training in architecture is certainly not the kind of man you would expect to win the Pritzker Prize (in 1995). His buildings embody the Japanese idea of zen. They are simple and practical, giving the mind and heart, not just the body, a space to dwell.

In this house, aptly named 4 × 4 House, the simplicity of the construction lets the concepts shine. Firstly, the concept of four. The tiny building is 4 stories tall. Every story has a square, 4 m by 4 m footprint. The structure is crowned by a cube that’s also 4 m by 4 m by 4 m. And, as if it wasn’t enough, the large window, that takes up a whole side of the cube, is divided into 4 equal square sections. (4 m is equal to roughly 13 feet.)

As you can see in the rendition above, the house is quite small. This was caused mainly by the regulations set in place to protect the shoreline, which is gradually receding. Shoreline erosion in Japan is a real problem caused by the real global climate change. Yet I don’t think this limited Tadao Ando as much as it would a Western architect, since the Japanese don’t assume a small house means the owners are poor. For some, living small means living more beautifully. Continue reading