Jack and Margaret Scott from Ashburton have an admiration for Japanese Architecture and they are also fans of the late great American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, particularly his early prairie houses. They have built several times before and had some very good ideas of there own that they wanted to incorporate in their new home. When they met Shizuka Yasui a Japan Registered Architect and partner in Bob Burnett Architecture, their brief was simply for a Japanese / Frank Lloyd Wright influenced house that also incorporated the latest environmentally friendly and energy efficient design ideas.
The Interior Design is inspired by the old Japanese traditional Minka style house, with large chunky dark stained timber beams and a skillion roof lined in timber and with exposed rafters. Following Japanese architectural philosophy space planning is economical and detailed, interior spaces flow from one to another without need for a hallway. A centrally located entrance way made easy access achievable. Vertical cedar battens around the high level glazing take their cue from Japanese townhouse Machiya style buildings commonly seen in tourist areas around Kyoto. Detailed landscaping also designed by Shizuka Yasui is of course integral with the Japanese design theme and includes a wisteria pergola or Fuji dana and numerous other Japanese Garden elements.
Surprisingly Frank Lloyd Wright designed 12 buildings in Japan from 1912-1921 and Bob & Shizuka recently visited three of them that remain. The original Tokyo Imperial Hotel 1915, the Yamamura Residence 1918 in Ashiya and the Jiyu Gakuen School 1921 in central Tokyo which is in the style of the Prairie Houses.
Characteristic that were evident in all are Wrights mastery of the use of light and how he managed to manipulate light to enter into the inner spaces of his buildings. His designs of this time although often incorporating intricate detail at the same time were very solid in appearance with chunky strong well grounded proportions.
In this Ashburton house East and North high level glazing brings light deep into the core of the house. This light is filtered by the Japanese influenced battens. A conservatory room acts as a solar collector and has a fan to transfer warm air to the main open plan living, dining, kitchen area. Like the houses of Japan this design has large eaves. Solar panels on the walls receive maximum sunlight through open pergola sections of exposed rafters where the eaves claddings are absent. This open pergola idea with cutaways in large eaves, was one of the features of many Wright houses (without the solar panels of course). The solar panels on the wall are ideally positioned to capture the winter sun which is at a lower angle while more panels on the roof capture the summer sun at a higher angle.
Japan is one of the leading countries when it comes to solar energy use. The best technology in the latest homes there uses special roofing tiles that look very similar to ordinary roof tiles but are made from silicon and harness the suns energy for generating more than enough electricity for the average home. In New Zealand use of solar energy (usually for water heating) is rapidly growing. Solar panels on the walls and roof of this house heat both the domestic hot water supply and a large storage tank for reticulated under floor heating. The floor slab is also thicker than normal giving greater thermal mass for energy storage and has 100mm of foam insulation under. Thermal break foundation details to the entire perimeter also ensure there is no energy leakage from the slab to out side. Wiring for future photovoltaic panel installation on the roof has been included. When designing homes for New Zealand we can learn from both the old and the new ideas from the East and the West.
Shizuka Yasui is a Japan Registered Architect and partner in Bob Burnett Architecture, www.bbarc.com.