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MUJI's New City-Living Prefabricated Vertical House

by Joseph Lo January 04, 2022

MUJI's New City-Living Prefabricated Vertical House


MUJI, a Japanese design company, has ventured into architectural terrain. After collaborating with Kengo Kuma to create two prefab houses a few years ago, the business has released a Vertical House in Tokyo. The dwelling is streamlined and efficient, accommodating all of the needs of residential life on a tiny parcel of land.



The product, designed for Tokyo's crowded urban surroundings, is a slim three-story structure free of inner walls and doors, with enormous north-facing windows to provide enough sunshine indoors. The split levels and open floor layouts enable related programs to link and provide a logical flow of movement.




The whole house epitomizes the utilitarian beauty of MUJI's minimalist design ethos, and it was designed to match MUJI furniture and goods.




What's fascinating, at least to this Westerner, is how they went about it. First and foremost, there are the anti-earthquake joints. Where beams meet columns in traditional Japanese building, intricate mortise-and-tenon joints (seen below right in the line drawing) are used. Muji's design (bottom left in the line sketch) beefs up the individual components and replaces wooden tongues with sturdy metal designed to enhance strength under seismic pressures.



The second point to mention is how they've opted to split the area. Building upwards is a no-brainer in a plot with a small footprint, but rather than having contiguous floors, they've decided to first bi-sect the home with an open staircase and then add somewhat staggered levels to either side to create six discrete "zones."




It's like having a series of different-height lofts instead of traditional levels or stories. By staggering the floors in this way, each "zone" is separated and delimited by the position of its floor in space, rather than by potentially claustrophobic walls trapped inside such a compact footprint. (Cultural note: While this would not fly in today's privacy-obsessed America, consider that traditional Japanese homes are far less likely to invite "company," or non-family members, into their homes; and that the traditional Japanese concept of privacy consists of nothing more than a rice-paper-thin sliding door.)


The ceiling heights are estimated in a haphazard manner. The mud-room-style open-air doorway, which is intended to keep bicycles or act as a half-carport, has a low ceiling, as do the ground-floor laundry room and the kitchen above it, all of which are considered workstations where an open, airy height is not a requirement. The living area, where family members will relax, has the highest ceiling in the home, standing at three meters. And, as befits status in a Confucian-influenced society, the master bedroom's ceiling height is somewhat higher than the ceiling height of the children's room.


The above-mentioned setup is the baseline design. However, the company recognizes that their customer base will have varying needs, desires, and budgets; single or married, pet-owner, musician in need of a practice room, entrepreneur in need of a ground-floor business or café in front of the house, families caring for an elderly relative who may not wish to ascend stairs, and so on. As a result, they provide a total of seven options:









The price of these residences ranges from 20 to 25 million yen (approximately $178,000 to $223,000) depending on the configuration chosen by the customer.












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