I have no idols. I admire work, dedication and competence.
In Japan, dream-weaver architect Kimihiko Okada is turning fantasy into reality. Legend has it that the concept for Toda House in Hiroshima came to be when a Japanese couple’s young daughter asked them if they could live in a house that floated on air.
Entertaining the daughter's flight of whimsy, her parents also made a list of their own requirements. These included a view of the sea, a street level shop, parking space, and the feeling that they were living somewhere spacious and safe.It all seemed unlikely, particularly given the lack of space in suburban Hiroshima. But architect Kimihiko Okada had the solution, Toda House – a home that levitates delicately above its neighbours on steel poles positioned in daring angles, lending the house a sense of precariousness. Underneath, there’s room for a car and a garden, and panoramic windows along all four exterior sides provide spectacular views at sunrise and sunset. Sometimes, dreams do come true.
Despite its impressive appearance, the most innovative aspect of the Toda House is its layout. Shaped like a Moebius strip, ceilings flow into floors, and the living area is a long, continuous passageway looping through the air. There are no physical divisions between rooms; instead of walls, level changes, each marked by one or two gentle steps, create transitions. Living in Toda House sometimes feels like being on a train – in order to move from the kitchen to the office, inhabitants must first stroll through the dining room and living room areas. According to Okada’s vision, these little journeys throughout help stretch the perceived volume of the house.
Given the limited space, the décor is simple and low key. The steel columns themselves provide the most dramatic visual element, thrusting up through the interior from below. Their polished curves are paralleled in miniature by the GROHE Costa faucets used throughout the house. The owners hunted down the original line of these fixtures because they loved the balance of “futuristic design and classic form”.
A true GROHE classic: the Costa line of faucets matches the Toda House’s steely curves with their minimalist design.
A house without a large common area risks isolating its inhabitants, but here, continuous windows along the interior of the spiral allow cross views, so family members are never visually cut off from each other. “As the height of the waist wall changes,” explains Okada, “the family get glimpses of each other. There’s a sense of security and comfort.” Indeed, the strength of Toda House is that it is both expansive and intimate, outward-looking yet introspective. It also seems to blend in with nature too; Okada refers to it as “the bird’s nest” because it is built around a tree that stretches up through the centre of the courtyard.
Completed in 2011, the house is often compared to Le Corbusier’s Modernist classic Villa Savoye; in 2012, it also won a special commendation from the Architectural Review. As such, Okada appears to be following in the footsteps of his mentor, the Pritzker prizewinner Ryue Nishizawa. But with such unique commissions as Toda House under his belt, Okada’s career seems anything but predictable.