It surely can’t be every day that a client briefs an architect to design a “house awaiting death”, but that was the instruction given to Eastern Design Office of Kyoto. The anonymous client wanted the house to be a place in which he could live out his final years in close relation to the ocean and the sun. He told the architect: “When I die it won’t be sunset, it will be sunrise. When the final moment comes, I will face the sea and depart on a ship flashing towards death.”
So how did the architect approach this task? The site for the building, on the outskirts of the town of Ise on the Shima peninsula, is 150m from the sea, so the first move was to raise the living spaces up to give uninterrupted views. The plan is wedge-shaped, opening out towards the ocean to the east, and slits have been cut into the internal walls to create a series of vistas and glimpses of the sea. Rooms for activities such as receiving visitors, eating and relaxing are entirely arranged around the view, as of course is the space in which the client intends to watch the sunrise on the morning of his death. The main facade has an irregular pattern of windows, which corresponds to the different shapes and heights of the spaces inside. This gives the exterior an ungainly quality, but, given the client’s requirements, this is hardly a problem.
Apart from a hospice, it is hard to think of any kind of architecture that is designed to die in, and it has brought out an obviously poetic touch in the architect. The client, though, remains an enigma. In the words of Eastern Design Office: “We sometimes still ponder why this client could give us such a request … The fact is that we had such an order from him and we have to comply with his message. In this process we find the possibility of architects.”