House & Café HéssOrganica
Our clients, a couple, intended to build a new house on a hill in Okazaki City commanding a fine view and hoped to have a residence combined with a café offering organic foods. The husband was a researcher of wood-based materials, and the wife was expert in a healthy diet. Therefore, wood had a symbolic meaning for them as a building material, and they had the idea to use wood for the exterior of the house.
We applied a three-level configuration for the house to make the building area a bit smaller because we needed space for a parking lot for café customers. When a building combines a residence and a store, the store is generally on the first floor and the residence is on the second and third floors. On this site, however, a street-level café would not allow customers to fully enjoy the scenery. In addition, the wife works in the kitchen of the café, so no one is upstairs for most of the time on weekdays, even though they have a nice view. For most residential dwellings combined with stores, the store and the dwelling are separated at both ends, such as the front versus the back and the upper level versus the lower level. But in this house, the café is the center of a lifestyle that the owner is trying to popularize; therefore, it is not desirable for the café to be separate from the residence. Neither the café nor the residence should exclude the other; they should share the center. For that very reason, we decided to put the café on the second level, the middle of the three-level configuration, which makes it clear that this house has a concentric framework; the café and the kitchen sit at the center of the building surrounded by the various types of living spaces. We hoped the clients would choose their lives in terms of the various distances from the lifestyle source around the café, while freely determining where to stay—sometimes in the upstairs room in winter and at other times in the downstairs room in summer.
In order to make the space accessible to the café and to reduce the height difference from the frontal road, we decided to sink the whole building underground by half a floor level so that the café is a story and a half. The bottom layer in the semibasement positioned this building into a wooden structure with one floor underground and two floors aboveground. This was not considered a three-story building according to building codes, which successfully avoided regulations for fire prevention and allowed us to use wooden exterior materials that were difficult to use for a three-story building.