japan-based studio velocity embarked on the design of the kowa apartments with the aim of rebuilding a housing complex in mihama, a seaside town on the southern tip of a peninsula in japan’s aichi prefecture. as the site’s pre-existing, 1950s-era apartment building was facing such issues as structural failure and decline in occupation, the studio resolved to replace the unusable structure with an open, friendly complex of spaces for multi-generational families. while the number of apartments was reduced in the new plan, an ambiguous boundary between public and private spaces promotes engagement between neighbors.
images courtesy of studio velocity
studio velocity’s main goal for the kowa complex was to develop a hybridization of the detached housing and apartment typologies. each of the ten buildings is surrounded by a wooden deck, or enngawa. by opening the living room in all four directions onto the deck, each interior receives the interstitial gathering space, encouraging interactions between residents. this overflowing internal life is limited by two diagonal cores within each unit which comprise the bedroom and bathroom.
three months after residents moved in, designers at studio velocity visited the complex and illustrated their experience: ‘one woman was playing in the garden with a baby boy, the neighbor’s son. two families, composed by two mothers and three elementary school children, gathered to have a late lunch together. one of them, asked by her mother, brought food she had cooked to another family next door. in the alley, underneath the shade of the large roofs, two women were talking and a boy was riding his small bicycle. sewing the gap between the old and the new, the children’s voices of the new neighborhood blew away with the sea breeze.‘
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