Bring the traditional raised platform-style house into the modern era
This project, a mixed commercial and residential building sitting high on a hill and providing a panoramic view of the city of Hiroshima, attempts to bring the traditional raised platform-style house into the modern era. A residential development had been planned in this area of splendid vistas, about 30 minutes by car from central Hiroshima, and this site, leftover from those plans, was kept in its natural state. The site charmed in every way, save for its being on a severely sloping grade. While it was feasible to reclaim the site by leveling it, the cost of doing that versus putting those resources into building the structure could not be justified in terms of the budget we were working with.
Looking to history, raising the floors of dwellings off the ground offered ancient peoples comfortable homes with good ventilation, while defending them from inclement natural conditions and the incursion of wildlife. Relying on inherited wisdom pointed us in the direction of raised-floor construction as a solution to the challenges of the site .
We pursued a rational structural design. Typically, we’ll support a roof upon pillars trussed with cross-bracing for earthquake protection. In this case, six columns come together in gassho style (the peaked roof common to Japanese farmhouses from antiquity), which together provide protection against both seismic and shearing forces. The frame structure resembles that of a child’s swing set. Two pillars join in a simple brace that counters tremors in a range of magnitudes and directions. We inserted three slabs, on which the building could be divided into commercial and living spaces. We anchored each of the six pillars in an independent concrete foundation, taking advantage of the relatively strong base conditions, and letting us minimize excavation.
General real estate valuation in Japan strongly favors southern exposures on flat lots. But we feel that through the exercise of ancient wisdom using modern technology we’ve been able to take a sloping site that would initially be viewed with indifference and reveal its hidden brilliance.
We reject the notion that the reclamation and repurposing of land masses is a concern only of civil engineering, and that the making of buildings exists in a segment apart. What we’ve done here expresses our hope that technology, even as old and simple as a raised-floor structural plan, can be applied to revealing the hidden value in every sort of site.