Located in Tarumi-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan, Tadao Ando’s 4×4 house, a piece of contemporary architecture and modern home design, is an extremely small private house standing on the coast of the Inland Sea in Japan. Eroded by the sea, much of the site is underwater. The site is unique
The house is known as a 4×4 house because of its dimensions (4m x 4m) and also because it is a 4 story tower.
Regulations regarding shore protection limited construction to a small, 16.5 foot-square space. The biggest problem was creating ample living space on the extremely small size. The more difficult the problem, the more interesting Ando’s design solution is likely to be.
Tadao Ando’s unique solution of the 4×4 house
This is an example of Ando’s style of humor. Confronted with a difficult task, he was able to create a building unlike anything we have seen before. A Japanese periodical called “Brutus” (published by MAGAZINE HOUSE) invited persons interested in asking Ando to design a building to submit possible sites.
This unique site was chosen by Tadao Ando himself from the various submissions.
Ando has taken a plan, 13 feet by 13 feet (4m x 4m) – the maximum dimensions possible for the site of 4 by 4 house—and created a four-story tower. The entrance and utility room are on the first floor, a bedroom is on the second floor, a study is on the third floor and the living/ dining room (the heart of the house) is on the top floor.
The extremely small site for this house permitted nothing elaborate; the organization is kept very simple and clear. The stairway occupies a large percentage of the floor space, especially since each of the 4 floors is only 13 foot-square.
However, the stairway takes up only half the space on the top floor since there is no need for it to go any higher. The advantage was taken of this fact to displace the top most floor by 3 feet and give the kitchen and living area more space.
Here too, we can see Ando work his particular magic—the transformation of the accidental into the inevitable.
The topmost floor is a cube 4 meters to a side, that is pushed out toward the sea. The seaward side is completely glazed; the view is such that we feel as if we were out on the sea on a boat. The space allows us to fully enjoy the wide expanse of the sea and the sky.
Since its completion, Ando has published a scheme for an addition to this building. The addition is a glass box on the beach that becomes submerged by the sea at full tide. It is a poetic proposal.It corroborates Ando’s assertion that expansiveness of space has nothing to do with the size of a building.
However, Ando has in fact built a house of the same shape next to this building. It is the same in shape yet different—a twin but made of a different material. The two houses of the same form, one concrete and the other wooden, have great impact on the coastal landscape.
In his younger days, Ando published a project called Twin Wall; he has also built a house called Soseikan (literally “Twin Residence”—also known as the Yamaguchi House). If the Row House in Sumiyoshi is a work with a powerful monistic character, Ando has from time to time also used similar, twinned forms for windows and ducting and created dualistic works.
Analysis of the 4×4 House Tadao Ando
Here, however, he has given the two houses, arranged side by side, such similar forms that a seascape of a kind with which we are all familiar is transformed into a surrealistic landscape. Is this an instance of Andoesque humor, or is it meant as a symbol of the fact that Ando is himself one of twin brothers?