The Okurayama flats by Sanaa

This project brings an interesting dilemma to me - it seems that by playing with form in a seemingly meaningless manner a number of qualities for the everyday life of the inhabitant are achieved. The formal complexity has created an engaging openness and great diversity of spaces. It is a highly sculptural project - it would be difficult to create something more complex of that size - and yet there are real attention to the human quality of the spaces. Each flat has its front door from the street or the courtyards. Planted courtyards are shared by the inhabitants. The flats are all different. The relationship between the public realm and communal areas private to the inhabitants of the flat is particularly subtle. It is both open to walk through and private, in similar ways to the alleyways of an old city. The narrowing and screening created by the curved walls establish a sense of privacy without the need for gates or railings.

Each flat is really an open plan hotel room, yet on two levels. Privacy for bath rooms comes from the screening created by the curves or a different height. These are more than just functional, they are spaces into which people can do other things and are indeed a large part of each flat, sometimes the actual entrance. The flats are open with windows to both the street and the patios to engage the inhabitants with the community around them.

Here are some plans and images.

On the other hand, there is so much external walls that energy loss is maximised; if you build it here in the UK most of the land would be given to insulation. This amount of external walls and complex curves also mean a high construction cost The flats are probably very difficult to use with narrow areas and mostly curved walls.

And yet, I can't escape being charmed by the sense of community the building seems to create, not unlike that found in medieval European city centres.



Apartamentos Okurayama. SANAA from edicions espontaneas on Vimeo.


Naoshima Ferry Terminal. SANAA from edicions espontaneas on Vimeo.