House in Rokko by Tato Architects


Tato Architects

Ken’ichi Suzuki, Yohei Sasakura




Kobe, Japan

Site area: 295.31m2
Building area: 56.00m2
Total floor area: 94.50m2
Type of Construction: Steel
Principal designer:Yo shimada
Design period : Jan. 2010 – Mar. 2011
Construction period : Aug. 2011 – Nov. 2011


Looking for a way in which architecture is not too dominant for its relation with the environment.

I have wondered what architecture that demands a superb view should be. By opening only to the side that gives the perfect view it limits the relation to the near surroundings. In what way can the view be enjoyed without being too dominant?

The site is at the end of an old residential area on a hillside of Mt. Rokko. It is a large area but too steep to bring in heavy machines for driving piles. A land of 3.5m by 13.5m was left for manual digging of a foundation after keeping sufficient distance from the old retaining wall and heaped soil. Owing to its location and topography, the resident didn’t have to concern about being watched from outside too much. Thus the ground floor, which was not seen from below, was fully glazed to bring environment and townscape into the interior. It is a semi-public space, functioning as a so called LDK. Living, dining and kitchen, equipped with a toilet for guests, flexible enough to accommodate a variety of activities such as making music with friends, treating guests, and taking care of his bicycle. Space needs to be personalized, namely a bedroom, a bathroom and storage, were arranged on the first floor in the archetypal house lifted up from the ground level. The form helped the house relate to the surrounding old houses with pitched roofs. It kept sufficient volume while the height according to local building codes was met. Considering natural ventilation, openings on the first floor were placed equally.

Additionally, an under floor heating system with heat storage using midnight electricity was installed on the ground floor. Furthermore, a far-infrared radiation film floor heating system was placed on the first floor. Combined with accumulated heat by sunlight on the slab of the ground floor, the resident lives comfortably. In summer, balcony and eaves will block sunlight, and breeze from Mt. Rokko will carry out indoor heat.

A steel-frame construction was adopted according to the client’s wish. As only man-powered construction was available on this specific site, small H-section steel was adopted as a main structural element. In addition, each construction material was limited to a weight of about 100kg for carrying up to the site. 

To reinforce the horizontal stability while placing a big hole for stairs in the first floor slab, 4.5mm thick steel plates were laid on the cantilevered balcony all around the building.

Careful observation of the environment without responding to it downright resulted in the house with a glazed empty space and a high ceiling on the ground floor. On this scenic site where a variety of residents’ styles and generations are mingled, we think we found a way to interact equally with the near surroundings and townscape.

Text provided by the architect



Who owns the house? How old are they? What is their profession?


He is my friend from  university.

He is 40 years old and his job is graphic designer.

After the experience of this building’s construction, he has decided to be a real estate consultant.

Q2. Do they live in the house, or just visit for holidays?


He lives in there everyday.


When the owners first approached you, what did they want? What was their dream?


He was looking for a house he could live in alone.

There are points were desired: a private bedroom, bath room.

Living room for having a party with friends, a space where he can fix bicycles and make music etc.


The design process lasted more than a year. Why did this take so long?


Since he didn’t have much money to build I have to design as possible as simple and easy.

In addition only manpower was available for everything Including hauling of materials so I had to think of a way to carry out the construction.


During the design process, how did you observe the location? Did you sit there quietly for hours? Did you visit at different times of day, or year?


I visited at different times of the day, seasons for many times.


You have designed a number of houses on hills, with great views. What was special, or unusual, or challenging about this location? What have you tried to do differently for this house?


The different point from other buildings is that manpower construction was inevitable.

I tried to make the first floor open and second floor close because we were able to get a good prospect at the first floor level.

I was careful not to have a fixed concept in dealing with the environment too much.

Please refer to the text “House in  Rokko Looking for the way an architecture does not fix the affect to the environment too much” for details.


The steel frame was carried on-site by hand. Are there any other materials you carried on-site by hand? And did you choose these materials specifically because they could be easily carried on-site by hand?



We considered the portability of the materials,but it was not all.


How did you get so much heavy glass onto the site?


4 men brought it on-site by hand.


Does the glass have any special properties to prevent it overheating in summer, or losing heat in winter? For example, is it triple-glazed, or filled with argon gas?


I didn’t consider using it because of money and weight.

At present,a deep canopy top of 1.2m width prevent a overheat and the cold in winter is prevented by floor heating.


Which buildings or architects did you take inspiration from for this house? For example, did you look to other houses in difficult locations, such as The Chemosphere in Los Angeles, designed by John Lautner?


Grain warehouses in Ukrainian, residential housing in Queensland, Australia,

Photo of elevated tanks taken by Bernd and Hilla Becher.


The house is reminiscent of JeanProuvé’s Maison Tropicale – a house on stilts, made with prefabricated elements. Was this a conscious influence?


No. but I hear these points, I would agree with many of these; I think.


The house also has a similar aesthetic to British high-tech architecture (exemplified by Richard Rogers and Norman Foster) with lots of glass and steel. Was this a conscious influence?




What type of metal is used for the exterior cladding upstairs?


Corrugated galvalume steal plates with heat insulator attached on the back.


How tall is the room in first floor? And how tall is the room in the second floor?


3500mm is ceiling height of first floor 2300-3450mm is ceiling height of 2nd floor.


How can the owners achieve privacy in the bathroom with the glass wall?


There is only one resident, and the second floor is his own private space. He requested glass walls so that he could see the TV through it.


Can you explain briefly what a thermal store using midnight electricity is? How does this work?


We can use electricity cheaply during a period at night.

The thermal storage system uses such electricity to heat the floor concrete with heaters buried therein.

Sunlight through the fixed large window will additionally heat up the floor.

Electric energy and sunlight stored in the floor concrete will be released from the surface throughout the day.

At night in winter, the power was automatically on and continued to accumulate heat till morning.

THE TREE MAG – The Fruits of Ideas