The design is inspired by the clients' love of Japanese houses, traditionally built out of a framed structure, where walls are sliding shutters and the sizes of rooms decided by the number of tatami mats. These mats are traditionally made of rice straw, and common dimensions are 955mm by 1910m.
This design is similarly based on a structural grid, which here is a 5mx5m square that makes up a larger square, which is 20mx20m. The number of squares used decides the size of rooms so that for example the bedroom is one square of 5x5m, whilst the kitchen/ living/ dining room is 4 no. 5x5m squares. The 5x5m square can then be split into a 2.5x2.5m non-structural sub-grid that allows a shift of spaces, breaking the rigidity of the structural grid, which adds architectural interest.
A simple steel frame based on the module supports structural steel decks. This forms the basic structure and allows dry construction with quick assembly on site. The use of a steel frame and industrial steel decks also ensures high levels of accuracy and low cost.
The 20m square, and its subdivision into 5x5m squares have a flexibility in terms of layout that can allow several different plan arrangements.
The layout organises different functions of the home into separate volumes. These are bedroom and bathroom, study, plant and gym, and carport/ dirty entrance. By their arrangement, space is defined creating a natural entrance, an open kitchen/ dining/ living room central to the plan that becomes the heart of the house. The living room is facing mainly south, but the kitchen also enjoys a controlling position with additional views east and west.
The living room blurs the boundaries of inside/ outside. The living space extends out onto a terrace and a sitting area with an outdoor fire. By its positioning on the south west corner of the house, the best views are enjoyed, whilst being sheltered from strong prevailing winds from the east.
The bedroom wing faces east and in the same volume there is a dressing room separating a “spa bathroom” with a large freestanding bath behind sliding glass windows. More private functions such as the WC and the shower are located behind a wall with a vanity unit and double sinks.
The proposed layout is flexible, and within the main structural grid, internal walls can be altered to suit changing needs. Services, such as electrics and plumbing are concentrated to few “thick walls” so that changes in layout can easily be accommodated.
The structural steel frame has its advantages in terms of materiality as the steel decks can be left exposed underneath the house, thus saving money on additional cladding. Likewise, internally, the decks can be factory powder coated to any colour and used as the finished ceiling. To expose the ceilings like this does not only make sense financially (as no dry-lined plaster ceiling is required), but it also exposes the construction method and which strengthens the architectural idea.
The steel frame being the main structural support allows internal partitions to be lightweight and clad in a selection of different finishes. Traditionally, a brick or stone-wall would be structural, but here the steel frame allows the use of thin stone or concrete panels as a cladding, both allowing more freedom with regards to choice of cladding, but again with a financial advantage.