Suzuko Yamada, Japan: Wallpaper * Architects Directory 2021
Suzuko Yamada joins our range of emerging offices in the 2021 Wallpaper * Architects’ Directory, with a distinctive Tokyo home referring to gorilla habitats in Rwanda
We meet Suzuko Yamada, the founder of the eponymous, energetic and up-and-coming Japanese practice from Tokyo, which is making waves with wonderfully experimental living works like Daita2019; The project draws on native architecture and the spirit of our time as Yamada redefines the idea of the home, inspired by the gorilla habitats in Rwanda.
Who: Suzuko Yamada
This boutique office with just three employees is managed by the Japanese architect Suzuko Yamada. Born in Tokyo and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and Tokyo Art University, she founded her independent studio in 2013 after previously working for the renowned Sou Fujimoto Architects. Today she teaches and practices, researches a decidedly experimental architecture and has received a number of awards (e.g. recognitions from the Architectural Design Association of Nippon and Japan’s “Under 35 Architects” exhibition in 2020).
Recent work includes a number of residential projects with designs that push the boundaries of residential architecture. Her Pillar House concept touches on apartment typologies and led to a life-size replica of the design that is being built in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Miyazaki House is an ongoing project for the home of a designer couple and their two young children. But it was Daita2019 that particularly caught our attention – a striking, scaffolding-like composition of a house in an urban lot (see below).
Yamada likes to think about “native architecture,” she says. “We know that there are many great examples of vernacular expressions from different eras in many regions. Not only in buildings, but also in music, clothing, tools, languages, food … Does the architecture we create have the same sense of rationality and beauty as these other vernacular expressions? We always think of this when we start a project. And we are also trying to propose new local architecture that is rooted in the time we live in. “
“When designing this house, I remembered the Rwandan forest that I visited a few years ago,” recalls Yamada. “It is a huge forest of the Virunga volcanoes, where the borders of Rwanda, Congo and Uganda lie and where wild mountain gorillas spend their daily travels. When we caught up with a flock of gorillas under the guidance of locals, they simply sat down and rested between soft bushes in an open wooded area. Young gorillas played in the trees and ran among adult gorillas while each adult sat comfortably in the grass to groom themselves or to eat grass and tree bark. It was like a scene in a house. ‘
It was this landscape and the natural structure of trees, leaves and tall grass that inspired the architect to create this Tokyo house, which is more reminiscent of an abstract three-dimensional network or scaffolding system than a conventional house. “Is it possible to create a house in which bare life is gently enclosed with layers of linear materials and objects to shape different depths, and [removed] from the sun and the eyes of the people in the streets? ‘ asks Yamada.
The answer is Daita2019, a residential building in an urban setting made of visible building materials, almost no opaque walls at the front, and a series of windows and joinery elements that together define the space. The owner’s possessions are arranged in such a way that they “shape different life scenes”. Meanwhile, an outdoor garden is rich in edible plants, fruit trees, herbs and flowers. A border made of aluminum defines the boundaries of the structure and wood and steel leaves delimit each room.
Why: Wallpaper * Architects Directory 2021
Designed in 2000 as an index for emerging architectural talent, Wallpaper * Architects’ Directory is our magazine’s annual list of promising practices from around the world. The project has spanned styles and continents over the years as it always stands up for the best and most exciting young studios, showcasing inspiring work with an emphasis on the living space. With more than 500 alumni, and the trend is rising, the Architects’ Directory is back in its 21st edition. Join us at the start of this year’s survey – 20 young studios from Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the USA and Great Britain, with a lot of promise, ideas and exciting architecture.