atspace architects converts kyoto townhouse celadon gallery + cafe

sokoku gallery and cafe by atspace architects in japan

AtSpace Architects has renovated Kyoto-style Machiya – traditional Japanese wooden townhouse – to house the new CELADON SOKOKU Gallery and coffee. Located at the foot of Gojozaka, Kyoto, famous for its traditional Kiyomizu-ware ceramics, the original structure was built in the early 1900s by ceramic artist Hatta Sokoku. The space originally served as residence for the artist and a pottery studio with a custom-built celadon kiln, and it has since been passed down from generation to generation before being recently refurbished by AtSpace Architects. The redesign of SOKOKU’s Japanese architecture studio emphasizes the architectural origin of the building, which reflects its historical and regional characteristics, while creating a public gallery and cafe as well as a comfortable living space for the owner .

With SOKOKU AtSpace Architects seeks to preserve the deteriorated traditional form of the in wood house, allow the owner to live comfortably undisturbed, and build a new gallery and cafe to showcase Sokoku’s celadon works. “We defined the design intent of each as updating living functions to modern requirements and preserving a cultural asset by restoring its original style”, note the architects.

the gallery displays and sells Kiyomizu ceramics made by Sokoku

all images courtesy of AtSpace Architects

preserve the regional and historical characteristics of kyoto

SOKOKU’s residence is compactly reorganized, with improved thermal insulation achieved through new interior window frames and underfloor heating. Inside the commercial space, the earthen floor and veranda-like porch that characterize Kyoto-style houses have been restored. Not characteristic of traditional Machiyathe Kyoto-based architecture studio places SOKOKU’s storefront further to the rear of the building, allowing the porch and cultivation okuzashiki — interior room of a traditional Japanese house — to be preserved, and to make the rear garden more widely accessible. The interior room is defined as the buffer between the residence and the commercial spaces, to function both for festive occasions and daily life.

In the gallery and cafe, AtSpace Architects filters natural light into the space through evenly distributed skylights in the characteristic smoke vent atrium called hibukuro. The soft light reflects off the clay walls, gently illuminating the display of delicate celadon ceramic works. Cylindrical dishcloth containers are built into the clay walls as a protective material, and ashtray lids are converted into slots for wastebaskets – all made from flawed pieces of Sokoku celadon porcelain.

Japanese wooden house from the 1900s is renovated to house the SOKOKU celadon + cafe gallery by atspace architects
the building enhances the streetscape with newly repaired eaves

the gallery presents the remarkable ceramics of Sokoku

Although the exterior appearance of the residence is retained, the building enhances the streetscape with newly repaired and preserved lattice eaves and bay windows on the facade. AtSpace Architects replaced the damaged posts and beams with new joints and restored the crumbling mud walls by reweaving the bamboo underlayment and applying soil. In addition to facilitating future upgrades, SOKOKU is also designed to help preserve the environment by recycling local resources and using building materials with high recycling rates. The project also preserves the traditional techniques of tile roofing and mud rendering.

Speaking of SOKOKU’s goals, the architects say: “We aim to provide social value to a much broader extent beyond a time generation and the land on which it is built.” “We hope that this renovation will be part of its historical legacy and will continue in the future”. The project received donations to preserve the public values ​​of the Kyoto style Machiyaand the building was designated as a Structure of Landscape Significance in 2022 after the renovation.

Japanese wooden house from the 1900s is renovated to house the SOKOKU celadon + cafe gallery by atspace architects
coffee and Zashiki bedroom

About Walter Bartholomew

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