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UPSTAIRS & DOWNSTAIRS

by Michele Koh Morollo on Oct 17, 2013 in Architecture
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The home of two teachers, Stairs-House looks suspiciously like a sports field bleacher that you might find at a school

Imagine literally climbing up the roof of your house, then playing a game of catch there with your kids. That could be asking for trouble if you live in a conventional house with a roof of slate or shingle, but it is totally possible at Stairs-House, a 143 sq-m beachside family home in Oda city in the Shimane prefecture of Japan, with its integrated stair seats and stepped roof that resemble bleachers at a sports field.

The owner of this unusual home are a couple in their thirties with young twin children. Both are teachers who were looking to build a warm and welcoming place where their students could drop by for occasional visits. They commissioned their dream home project to Kobe-based architecture firm y+M Design Office with three key requirements: they wanted the design to be conducive to socialising; they wanted it to be warm and bright; and they also wanted it to offer privacy.

Y+M’s principal architect Masahiro Miyake says he was inspired by the natural energy of the site. “I think with architecture, the thing to think about is how you want to live together with the surrounding environment. So the shape of this house takes into account its natural environment,” says Miyake, who employed the Japanese architectural feature of engawa — wooden strips of flooring between windows and storm shutters in traditional Japanese homes — to create a house with a stepped roof.

Clearly reminiscent of sportsfield bleachers, the roof recalls something that both the teacher couple and their student-visitors might feel right at home with. The creation of this stair-shaped roof (with a landing, benches and roof terrace deck) thus meets the first requirement for a social space.

With the edges of the roof surrounded by rails, the couple can entertain their students safely, and when they have parties, guests can sit on the steps and chat, eat and drink. The family can also see and greet their neighbours from their roof. In this way, the family can maintain their privacy by keeping the interior space as a personal zone, while guests have full access to the stepped roof.

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