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Responding to the widespread neglect of his country’s vernacular residential architecture, Tokyo architect Yasuhiro Yamashita has created a new model of adaptive preservation. This project, in a seaside community south of Tokyo, uses the timber-frames of two 100-year-old “folk houses” as the armature for a contemporary private residence/art gallery. Rotated in relationship to each other, the dark-stained exposed structural frames form a spatially complex interior. Contrasting colors distinguish new material from old, while steel post bases hold columns above floor bricks salvaged from an 80-year-old factory building in China. Sandwich panels (galvanized steel, rigid insulation, and wood-wool cement board) wrap the building in a sculpturally abstract envelope.

“The inside is old, but the outside is new,” Yamashita said, through an interpreter. “Both are independent, but both are networking very well. The one thing that connects them is the light.” Our judges saw in the result “a new approach to preservation: Instead of absolutely freezing [a historic building] in amber or demolishing it, a way to preserve it.” To Yamashita, it represents an effort to highlight the value of tradition in a culture oriented ever more toward the new. “An old thing is just an old thing for some people, but it does have value if you see it from a new point of view.”

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product details

bathroom fittings and fixtures, flooring (ceramic tile), and kitchen fittings: INAX,; cooktop, oven, and refrigerator: Panasonic,; exterior spaces and solar energy system: Sankyo Tateyama,; lighting fixtures: Sugatsune,