Spinning Stories Through Architecture: Maki Onishi and Yuki Hyakuda (Part 1)


(5)_MG_2476-minEssential tools for an architect: “language and imagination”

Like the Double Helix House, the Hut and Tower House was completed in 2015; and like the Double Helix House, it is a private residence on a small plot of land. The Hut and Tower House’s lot directly adjoins the street, and the building consists of three separate structures. Nearest the street is a small semibasement room—the “hut.” Behind this stands a larger three-story building with kitchen, shower room, bath, and other facilities requiring plumbing. Finally, at the rear of the lot rises a five-story tower of rooms roughly 4 meters square.

“This house was designed to respond to the surrounding environment. The owners use the ‘hut’ as a private space away from the main building, but because it’s so close to the street, they are considering opening a cafe or gallery there in future. Looking at the tower, on the other hand, the fourth story has a feeling of separateness from the others. It’s like going to another separate space, but one in the sky.”

Part of the appeal of this building, Hyakuda explains, is that it neither blends in perfectly nor clashes unpleasantly with the surrounding environment, allowing it to maintain the perfect distance from what’s around it.

(8)20170325Photos (above): Hut and Tower House, 2015. Photos by Shinkenchiku-sha
(Top) The building’s exterior. The single-story building in the foreground and the top floor of the tower in the back form two spaces separate from the main building. An exterior staircase was added to make the roof and terrace also feel like part of the living space. (Center) Looking down from the fifth-floor “room in the sky” at the exterior staircase, which merges with the facade. (Bottom) Viewing the second “separate room” through the kitchen from the dining room.

“When we designed the Hut and Tower House,” adds Onishi, “our office was in Nakameguro. Walking around that area, you would see mostly three-story apartment buildings, but you could also find the occasional one-story residence. Those houses were in dialogue with the streetscape, but they didn’t match it, exactly. For the Hut and Tower House, we wanted to recreate that arrangement—a place with a slightly different atmosphere from its surroundings, but not unpleasantly opposed to them.”

Both Onishi and Hyakuda agree that creating a building is like spinning a story. Each individual design is a response to a range of challenges that keep the project grounded in reality: the lot available, the budget, the desires of the client. At the same time, however, architects are expected to find a way to leap beyond those bounds. What takes on the most importance here, says Hyakuda, is language and the imagination needed to escape the everyday.

“When you’re creating a building, discovering the right words is essential. Obviously, the building should speak for itself, but not everyone can go to see it, and if it hasn’t been built yet no-one can see it at all. This is when it becomes important to be able to excite the imagination by speaking, and through this share your vision with the client and those who will be working alongside you.”


Maki Onishi
Born 1983 in Aichi prefecture. Graduated from Kyoto University’s Undergraduate School of Architecture in 2006. Completed her Master’s at the University of Tokyo’s Department of Architecture in 2008, and established “o+h” with Yuki Hyakuda in the same year. Part-time instructor at Kyoto University, Yokohama National University, and Hosei University starting 2016.

Yuki Hyakuda
Born 1982 in Hyogo prefecture. Graduated from Kyoto University’s Undergraduate School of Architecture in 2006. Competed his Master’s at Kyoto University’s Department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering in the Graduate School of Engineering in 2008, and established “o+h” with Maki Onishi in the same year. Worked at Toyo Ito & Associates from 2009–2014.

Reporting/writing: Fumiko Suzuki. Photography: Sakiko Kishimoto. Coordination: Naomi Shibata.