Atelier Bow-Wow Builds First US House – for a Hollywood Director
The first house in the US by Japan’s husband-and-wife team Atelier Bow-Wow is on a site that is virtually limitless.
It has the opposite of their usual site constraints: the pair have earned a reputation over the past decade for designing intelligent but extremely compact houses in cramped left-over urban spaces in Japan’s crowded cities.
The very unpretentious and green vacation home has a viewing deck on top, that is completely open on all sides, per the request of the client, a Los Angeles film director.
Originally, this top deck was designed as an enclosed meditation room. But the client wanted it to be simple. A half-constructed space has a sense of possibilities.
A simple rustic retreat can be very grounding. The house of a nearby builder and carpenter inspired many of the rough-sawn wood and no-frills, custom finishing. Rooms are lit by basic bulbs hanging from cords. While there is a green hydronic heating system, it is set in a straightforward unfinished concrete floor.
In Japan, this use of local needs-based building techniques has typified the work of Atelier Bow-Wow. Their refreshingly cost-effective straightforward style, even though it is sometimes decried as “shameless” or “tasteless” is simply a functional construct that has arrived at this point in response to the here and now and not anything else.
Recycled sinks and bathtubs were cleaned up and used. The client had selected Atelier Bow-Wow precisely because he did not want anything too fancy. “I didn’t want anything too sharp or sleek, as if a UFO landed on the hill” he says. “Instead of a beautiful spaceship, I wanted a tugboat.”