Japanese culture influences a house design in the scenic seaside town of Kamakura

Japanese culture influences a house design in the scenic seaside town of Kamakura

A Kamakura home designed for an international couple by local architect Hitoshi Saruta of CUBO Design Architect balances contemporary architecture with a traditional Japanese approach

The beautiful Japanese seaside town of Kamakura is known for its rich history and scenic location, offering views from the Shonan coastline to the iconic peak of Mount Fuji. A hilltop spot here can ensure some great, privileged vistas and an ideal perch from which to admire the Japanese culture and countryside; as the international owners of a new house, entitled T3, discovered, when they decided to build their Kamakura home.

The clients approached local architect Hitoshi Saruta of CUBO Design Architect for the commission. Saruta, who has a series of sensitively composed residential projects in the area under his belt, jumped at the opportunity to create something modern that would also accommodate his clients’ keen interest ‘in the aesthetic of Japanese gardens, as well as Japanese culture and architecture’. 

The house, which maintains a simple and fairly closed off street-facing front, highlighting privacy, slowly unfolds as the visitor walks in, and opens up entirely towards the rear of the plot and a carefully designed garden, complete with planting and rock arrangements. The scale is generous, as the house serves not only as a comfortable retreat for the owners, but also a guesthouse for visitors, as well as a place for entertaining, as the users split their time between Japan, France, and the United States. Striking a balance between domestic functionality, local charm and an impressive design approach was key. 

Saruta duly obliged working with traditional Japanese building materials (such as granite, Japanese paper, black plaster, wood lattice, and louvers) where possible, to enhance tactility and anchor the project to its locale. He also adopted the use of the continuous eaves found in Japanese sukiya architecture (a residential typology linked to the traditional tea ceremony); only giving them a more contemporary twist by incorporating steel in the structure to add sharpness. 

Inside, the residence spans four levels, including a basement floor with space for utilities and a garage, a ground level that contains bedrooms and a first floor, where the main living spaces are arranged, making the most of the plot’s long views. The project’s most impressive moment though is the scheme’s accessible rooftop, with its large terrace and swimming pool, from which owners and guests can relax and take in the city and nature beyond, all within the serene setting of this remarkable, old/new architectural hybrid. §

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