Writing & Editorial

  • On the Spline

    On the Spline

    I recently published an academic paper answering the question: where do curves come from? I started this research well over a decade ago when I was working everyday with 3D design software at Grimshaw architects in London. The research began when I gave an internal presentation to overcome the architects’ reticence about using 3D software…


  • Why Japan is Crazy About Housing

    Why Japan is Crazy About Housing

    The following article about Japanese housing economics and how they motivate Japan’s penchant for experimental architecture first appeared on ArchDaily, where it quickly became one of their most popular articles. Unfortunately, copyright restrictions prevent me from including here the photography that accompanied the original article. In architectural magazines and websites, like ArchDaily, we see a steady stream…


  • Precut – Modern Japanese Timber Construction

    Precut – Modern Japanese Timber Construction

    Industrially precut timber framing has become the predominant house construction method throughout Japan. In this first short documentary, produced by BAKOKO, we explain the process from factory floor to building site. Like so much of its traditional culture, Japan has developed a highly efficient technological adaptation of an age-old building technique. This video was originally…


  • OM Solar – Japan’s Passive Building Standard

    OM Solar – Japan’s Passive Building Standard

    Over 25,000 OM Solar homes have been built in Japan within the last 20-30 years. This figure would appear to put the system’s popularity on par with Europe’s Passive House (Passivhaus) standard. Yet, the OM Solar method is unique and seems almost unknown outside of Japan.


  • Eco House Challenge of 20

    Japan’s ambitious ‘Model Eco-House’ project has already completed twenty unique sustainable homes throughout the country in an aim to set a new national standard for environmental design.


  • Windowless Homes

    Windowless Homes

    Recently, there has been a crop of modern Japanese homes without windows. Open to the sky, they are daylit by skylights and open courtyards. These internal spaces offer brighter living conditions than typical homebuilder homes with their familiar pitched tiled roofs and small windows veiled by net curtains. However, the lack of any view to…


  • Before After ビフォーアフター

    My last article mentioned a popular Japanese television series called “Before After”. In the cultural wasteland of Japanese television, dominated by cult-celebrity panel variety shows, it stands out as one of the few gems worth watching. Despite being a show ostensibly dedicated to home improvement, it might also be one Japanese TV’s most emotional…


  • DIY in Japan

    Most Japanese families are resigned to living in the homes that the marketplace offers. If they are unhappy living in them, they rarely seem to do much about it. Quality of life in Japanese homes could be remarkably improved if their owners took matters into their own hands…


  • Tour of Muji’s 白い町 White Town

    Tour of Muji’s 白い町 White Town

    Muji generously invited us to don white gloves and tour their newly completed development in Chiba prefecture. Having previously written about the project, it was good to see it firsthand. Sadly, wet weather did not offer the best photo op. Working for the developer Orix, Muji has built 22 homes of various layouts. Surprisingly, the…


  • Roof Gardens

    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Muji’s attempt to resolve their customers’ desire for green space whilst maximizing their development’s density (and profitability). Today, I am covering an alternative solution to Japan’s lack of green space.


  • The Genkan

    The Genkan

    As we all know, shoes are removed upon entering the Japanese home. Behind every front door, a small sunken patch of tile or exposed concrete, called a genkan, is dedicated to this ritual. This area is something between a porch and a glorified doormat, yet it occupies an integral place within the Japanese home.


  • Green Spaces in Japanese Cities

    Japan is a notoriously cramped nation. The commercial pressures to utilize land efficiently entail that little is set aside for the gardens, parks, or open spaces. Well, perhaps this post should be re-titled: “Something that Japan IS Learning from the West” because the Japanese retailer Muji is attempting to put Western town planning practices to use…


  • Kura Storage Spaces

    Japan’s house building industry is characterized by intense competition. With so many young families choosing to build new homes, volume house builders come up new innovative features to outcompete rivals’ products. Although these features often seem gimmicky, one idea that seems to be a must is the half-height storage level, or “kura” space. Two families…


  • Terrace Housing – Why is it uncommon in Japan?

    Western visitors are often struck by the density Tokyo’s small houses. Often a gap of only 40 centimeters (15″) separates two houses – barely wide enough for a person to squeeze between. Windows often look into these dark gloomy voids. Seeing this depressing site throughout Japan’s towns and cities leaves me to wonder: why haven’t…


  • Veranda – Balconies Serve Utilitarian Functions in Japan

    Living in Europe and America balconies seemed like an added amenity or even a luxury. In Japan they are sustainable and utilitarian extensions of domesticity. One thing that distinguishes run of the mill Japanese homes from their Western cousins is an inordinate number of balconies. Many Japanese houses have a balcony (or veranda as they…


  • Heating Japanese Homes

    I previously sung the praises of Japan’s ingenuity in the bathroom, but now I’d like to turn to a part of the home where the Japanese designers and builders still have something learn from their Western counterparts….


  • Ofuro – The Wonderous Japanese Bath

    A Culture of Bathing In a land where hot water seems to bubble up from volcanic hot springs at every turn, it is little wonder that bathing is an integral part of Japanese society. When the country urbanized, the tall boiler chimneys of public bath houses (called sentos) popped-up throughout dense residential quarters of Japan’s…