Known as the House of the Sacred Rock, this contemporary Japanese dwelling is centered around a serene courtyard with a beautiful story. Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP designed the northern Kyoto home to feel visually connected to the natural views of Mount Hiei and other elements of the surrounding landscape. At the same time, they also wanted to retain privacy from next-door neighbors. The architects achieve this with a façade of vertical wood elements on the facing street but large portions of glass overlooking more private areas.
The main feature of the project is the inner courtyard that allows plenty of natural light to enter the home. It is carefully designed with a unique elevation and obscures the visual connection to different parts of the house. With a mound of earth at the center of the garden, the architects separate the dining room from the bedroom and create a space that becomes sacred to the home.
“In the center of the garden, a sacred rock where a god dwells was dedicated,” explain the architects. “While the rock has a very material presence, it also has transcendency as a sacred space. We felt that this dual nature would bring infinite expanse to this small architecture and garden. With the sacred rock in the center, the garden thus became a modeled scenery of Mt. Hiei. Plants of smaller scale such as haircap moss, ekianthus perulatus, and ruscus bamboo provide additional depth to the perspective.”
The subtle play of landscape makes the entire courtyard more suitable for peaceful meditation. The architects describe the design move as mimicking the slightly closing your eyes. “This is the natural eye level when practicing seated zen meditation and a state of contemplating the inside of one’s mind and outside world simultaneously.”