Follow Us




Views Step into Homes Built by Architects
A House Open to the Elements
Maison Kata

Jérémie Souteyrat [Profile]/Véronique Hours [Profile]/Fabien Mauduit [Profile]/Manuel Tardits [Profile]


Architect couple Kamo Kiwako and Manuel Tardits built their own home in Tokyo as an experiment. They prioritized not everyday comfort, but rather what they could learn by trying to link concrete and nature together.

Kata-tei (Kata House) (designed by Kamo Kiwako and Manuel Tardits, 2007), west side.

The south side, viewed from the road.

The kitchen, viewed from the dining room.

The living room.

Stairs from the entrance hall.

Bedrooms upstairs are separated by bookshelves.

Looking up at the living room from the dining room.

Light effects in the living room, with the dining room below in the background.

Architects Kamo Kiwako and Manuel Tardits built this house for themselves in Setagaya, Tokyo. It was an experiment to see what kind of relationship they could create between concrete and nature. The building’s external walls are not parallel to the boundaries of its plot of the land, allowing it to be surrounded by several tsuboniwa, or miniature gardens.

Each garden, framed by a window and cultivated with different plants, serves as a foreground to wider and more distant views. This is the same shakkei technique used in traditional Japanese gardens. Everything is integrated—the views, light effects, songs of birds and insects, and aromas of flowers and other plants—blending the house into its environment. From spring to autumn, the house is left open to the elements and constantly filled with the fragrances of seasonal flowers.

The interior walls are unfinished concrete and the outside walls have only a simple weatherproof coating. There is no insulation or air conditioning and the family gets through winter with minimal heating. The seasons pass freely through this house. Its residents meet the climate’s challenges with passive methods: the natural circulation of the air, the shade of the trees, and the clothes they choose to wear.

The interior is designed with a series of split levels, creating a natural progression from the common area below to private spaces above. Bedrooms are divided only by bookshelves, an arrangement that the parents are happy with. Their children, however, are young adults and seem to find it more difficult to accept.

In his concrete cocoon, Tardits is the architect as homeowner. He often sits working at the dining table through the day, while enjoying the evolving play of light through the foliage of the surrounding trees.

© Jérémie Souteyrat

(Originally written in French by Véronique Hours and Fabien Mauduit and published on December 27, 2017. Photographs by Jérémie Souteyrat. Banner photo: The kitchen of Kata-tei (Kata House), designed by Kamo Kiwako and Manuel Tardits, 2007.)

This series is based on a project called L’Archipel de la Maison (Japan, Archipelago of Houses), initiated by Jérémie Souteyrat and the French architects Véronique Hours, Fabien Mauduit, and Manuel Tardits. An exhibition was held in various locations in Europe in 2014 and in Tokyo in 2017. Exhibition catalogs are available in French from Le Lézard noir and in Japanese from Kajima Publishing.

Official site:

  • [2018.01.24]

Photographer. Born in France in 1979. Graduated from university in engineering in 2001. In 2009 moved to Tokyo, where he now works as a professional photographer. Has done work for various magazines and newspapers, including Le Monde, Elle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Der Spiegel. Published his first photo collection Tokyo no ie (Tokyo Houses) in France in 2017, and Japan in 2017.


Architect. Born in Montreal, Canada. Now lives in southern France. In 2008, she cofounded the A. P. Arts collective, promoting interdisciplinary creativity in the fields of architecture, landscapes, and art. In 2013, she traveled around Japan researching unique houses. In 2016, she published Chile: Architectural Guide with Mauduit.

Architect. Lives in Nice. Cofounder of the A. P. Arts collective. Works on various projects while studying modern architecture. Published Chile: Architectural Guide in 2016 with Hours.

French architect based in Tokyo. Professor of architecture at Meiji University and ICS College of Arts and cofounder of Mikan, an architecture office based in Yokohama. Has participated in numerous national and international exhibitions including Archilab 2006: Nest in the City and Tokyo 2050/12 Visions for the Metropolis for the International Union of Architects 2011 Tokyo Conference. Works include Ie no kioku (The House’s Memory), Posuto ofisu: Wākusupēsu kaizō keikaku (Post Office: A Workspace Conversion Plan), Danchi saisei keikaku: Mikan-gumi no rinobēshon katarogu (Save the Danchi: Mass Estates, A Project of the Future), and Tokyo Dansō (Tokyo: Portraits and Fictions).

Related articles
Other articles in this report
  • A Seaside Home for a Solo VacationerThe last in this series of houses designed by architects focuses on a unique seaside second home for a single resident.
  • Squeezing In Beside a ShrineA distinctively shaped house on a thin piece of land beside a shrine catches the eye in a Kyoto suburb.
  • The Sea at KamakuraWhen his father passed away, the architect of this Kamakura house wanted to preserve the view of the sea his parents’ residence had enjoyed, while allowing passers-by to enjoy it too.
  • A Terrace House for a Tokyo FamilyConsideration for the surrounding environment is an important aspect of architectural design. In this Tokyo home, the architects wanted to make the most of the greenery of a nearby park, while maintaining privacy for the household.
  • A Room with a View of Rice FieldsAlthough a reasonable commute takes the father in this family to his big-city job in Tokyo, when he comes home he can relax looking out over rice fields in this Bōsō Peninsula home.

Related articles

Video highlights

  • From our columnists
  • In the news