Kyoto apartment block conversion transcends style

Kyoto apartment block conversion transcends style

A Kyoto apartment block conversion transforms two historical buildings into a three-unit residential block, courtesy of Bonbonma Architecture

In a city as historically rich as Kyoto, architectural treasures are not hard to find, permeating the everyday, all across town. In the case of the newest project by locally based studio Bonbonma Architecture, this heritage meets a more contemporary twist, via the late 20th century, in an unusual mix across styles and periods. This Kyoto apartment block conversion involved the transformation of two properties on the same plot of land – one from the 1920s and a more contemporary one – into a coherent complex of three units. 

Named Suzu, the complex features structures separated by seven decades, which resulted in the vastly different looks and construction methods involved. What unites them is a rich, green tsuboniwa style garden – a typical element in traditional Kyoto architecture. Now, Bonbonma Architecture’s surgical intervention means a flow is established between the two building and craft, space and light are allowed to take centre stage throughout this layered residential complex. 

Garden view at the Suzu apartment building renovation by Bonbonma

In the process of determining which areas will stay and which will go (part of the structure had to be demolished and redesigned) in order to re-imagine the existing structures and adapt them to their new use, Bonbonma used a method called ‘tone architecture’. It allows the architects to define spaces by using the different notes that each space vibrates to – eventually creating a whole composition by putting together the sound each room makes. 

Bonbonma Architecture, headed by Mexico-born architect Cecilia Ramirez Corzo Robledo, also works with the building’s existing ‘biology’, aiming to employ natural materials, respect existing eco-systems, and maintain the structures’ original palette when it comes to restoration work. Here too, minimising waste and avoiding the use of synthetic materials were key in the concept, as the architect and her team reused materials from the site and complemented those with similar, modern-day equivalents that ensured the original architectural intention remained present and strong - while remaining in sync with the natural context. §

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