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Minimalist house integrating trees in its design: Garden Tree House

Garden Tree House-Hironaka Ogawa Associates-01-1 Kindesign

Garden Tree House is an extension project for a young couple, which incorporates trees into the design by Hironaka Ogawa & Associates, located in Kagawa, Japan. The extension on the thirty-five year-old house is for a daughter and her husband, comprised of 547 square feet (50.9 square meters).

Garden Tree House-Hironaka Ogawa Associates-02-1 Kindesign

Azelkova tree and a Camphor tree stood on the site since the time the main house was build thirty-five years ago.  Removing these trees was one of the design requirements because the new additional building could not be built if these trees remained.  When I received the offer for the project, I thought of various designs before I visited the site for the first time.  However, all my thoughts were blown away as soon as I saw the site in person.

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The two trees stood there quite strongly. I listen to the stories in detail; the daughter has memories of climbing these trees when she was little.

These trees looked over the family for thirty-five years. They colored the garden and grew up with the family.  Therefore, utilizing these trees and creating a new place for the client became the main theme for the design.

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In detail, I cut the two trees with their branches intact.  Then I reduced the water content by smoking and drying them for two weeks.  Thereafter, I placed the trees where they used to stand and used them as main structural columns in the center of the living room, dining room, and kitchen.

Garden Tree House-Hironaka Ogawa Associates-05-1 Kindesign

In order to mimic the way the trees used to stand, I sunk the building addition 70 centimeters down in the ground.  I kept the height of the addition lower than the main house while still maintaining 4 meter ceiling height.

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By the way, the smoking and drying process was done at a kiln within Kagawa prefecture.  These two trees returned to the site without ever leaving the prefecture.

The client asked a Shinto priest at the nearby shrine to remove evil when the trees were cut.  Nobody would go that far without a love and attachment to these trees.

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When this house is demolished and another new building constructed by a descendant of the client hundreds of years from now, surely these two trees will be reused in some kind of form.

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Photos: Daici Ano, Courtesy of Hironaka Ogawa & Associates

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