Aomori Housing

Site: Aomori, Japan

Status: Conceptual Design

Program: Residential

Client: Aomori Prefectural Government

When the snow comes to Aomori this neighborhood is sheltered under a thick white blanket. Only the pedestrian street and the courtyards, warmed by heating elements imbedded in the paving, are clear. Cars move freely below the houses and park at the entry to each house. Light enters the garages through the translucent glazed floors of the courts. Each house has an entry room and its own stair, leading to an L-shaped unit with its own garden. At the edges of the site, taller buildings hold apartments served by elevators.

The energy to heat the paths and yards which join the community together comes from photo-voltaic canopies above the dwellings and public spaces which also clear themselves of snow. The energy stores in batteries and delivers itself in fine wires similar to those embedded in automobile windows.

The social spaces occur at each end and at the center of the pedestrian street, which connects to the streets beyond the site by ramps and elevators. The community center and bathhouse have entrances at the garage level as well, so that people with limited mobility can reach almost every part of the neighborhood.

There are 200 apartments each with one parking space: 40 (2) or (3) bedroom duplexes, 70 courtyard flats and 90 (1) or (2) bedroom units served by elevator. At the center of the site there is a bathhouse, a child care center and a facility for the elderly. On the main avenue there is a cultural hall for movies and lectures, as well as a row of shops. While on the narrow public street one finds smaller shops and a community meeting room. Although access to the parking level is gated, the movement of the foot traffic into and through the site on the pedestrian (upper) level is continuous with the surrounding web of streets.  In this way, the houses and pedestrian ways form a blanket over the parking. The snow lays down an insulating blanket over the dwellings. The canopies gather energy from the sun and float above the snow, below the sky.