Block party: a new book explores Tokyo’s unique family homes

Block party: a new book explores Tokyo’s unique family homes

Absurdity - that’s how world-renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma describes the determination of Tokyo families to own a patch of land, no matter how small, in the world’s most populated city. But it’s an absurdity that results in architectural outliers: tiny yet unique family homes.

Kuma’s musings appear in French photographer Jérémie Souteyrat’s 144-page study of Tokyo’s urban landscape, titled Tokyo no Ie (Tokyo Houses). The Japanese master’s houses are presented alongside those by Pritzker Prize winners Shigeru Ban and Kazuyo Sejima; small-home champions Atelier Bow-Bow; Sou Fujimoto (Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, London) and many more.

Souteyrat, 35, spent four years in search of these urban treasures ’sown like jewels in the immensity of Tokyo’. Says the photographer: ’I like the diversity of this city. If one has the chance to discover a jewel while walking on the street it’s a pretty good surprise, isn’t it?’

For cultural reasons few Japanese want to live in an old house, so even the gems in this book will likely be demolished within 40 years. ’As the houses are rebuilt every 25 years on average, there are a lot of opportunities for innovative design.’

For the same reason, Tokyo no Ie might become an ongoing project. ’I’d like to take the same pictures at the same locations in 25 years,’ says Souteyrat. One of the Kengo Kuma houses in the book has already been refurbished and repainted. In Tokyo, the jewels sparkle for all too brief a moment - making Tokyo no Ie an important document of a city in constant flux.

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