Hotakubo Housing Complex by Riken Yamamoto street
The Hotakubo Housing Complex | © Tomio Ohashi

Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto has been named the winner of this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize for his buildings that are a “background and foreground to everyday life.”

In 1991, the Hotakubo Housing Complex emerged as a pioneering architectural project, redefining the concept of communal living. Designed by architect Riken Yamamoto, this complex has become a hallmark of innovative design, addressing the intricate dynamics between community and privacy. The project demonstrates Yamamoto’s commitment to creating a social fabric that extends beyond the conventional boundaries of individual homes.

Hotakubo Housing Technical Information

Architecture is not about creating a space, but about creating relationships.

– Riken Yamamoto 1

The Hotakubo Housing Complex Photographs

Hotakubo Housing Complex by Riken Yamamoto aerial
© Shinkenchiku Sha
Hotakubo Housing Complex by Riken Yamamoto
© Tomio Ohashi
Hotakubo Housing Complex by Riken Yamamoto Jacome
© Jacome, Flickr User
Hotakubo Housing Complex by Riken Yamamoto detail
© Tomio Ohashi
Hotakubo Housing Complex by Riken Yamamoto Jacome
© Jacome, Flickr User
Hotakubo Housing Complex by Riken Yamamoto interior
© Tomio Ohashi

A Visionary Approach to Community Living

The inception of the Hotakubo Housing Complex was part of the “Kumamoto Artpolis” project, initiated in July 1988, with its first phase completed in April 1990 and the second phase, along with a communal hall, concluded in September 1991. Finally, the central plaza and landscaping were finished in November 1991. This comprehensive development spans 11,184 square meters, with a construction area of 3,562 square meters and a total floor area of 8,753 square meters.

Yamamoto’s project houses 110 units arranged around a central, tree-filled plaza, accessible exclusively through the residences themselves. This design was Yamamoto’s answer to the challenge of conceptualizing a living space for 110 diverse families as a cohesive community. The Hotakubo Housing Complex is not just a cluster of apartments; it’s a carefully crafted environment that nurtures communal interaction while respecting individual privacy.

Architectural Innovation

The Hotakubo Housing Complex is distinguished by its unique arrangement of apartments around a central courtyard, effectively creating a “community within a community.” This courtyard is not merely an empty space but is imbued with the vibrant essence of life, serving as a communal living area. Access to this intimate communal space is deliberately designed to be through one of the two methods: either passing through a residence or through the communal hall. This approach ensures that the courtyard remains a secure, private space for the residents, fostering a sense of belonging and community.

The project’s architecture takes inspiration from traditional Japanese ‘machiya‘ and Greek ‘oikos‘ houses, which promoted collectivism among neighbors. This influence is evident in the way the Hotakubo Housing facilitates the transition from private to semi-public spaces, creating a threshold that fosters a sub-society. TheLocal Community Area concept within the complex respects family privacy while promoting communal interaction. Despite the small size of individual units, a result of public housing regulations, each apartment includes a terrace overlooking the square. These terraces extend the living areas and connect residents with the natural environment, addressing the limitations of space creatively.

Riken Yamamoto’s Hotakubo Housing Complex stands as a revolutionary model in the realm of housing design. It challenges traditional notions of community and individuality, weaving them into a coherent whole that values both communal ties and personal space.

The Hotakubo Housing Complex Plans

Hotakubo Housing Complex by Riken Yamamoto Site Plan
Site Plan | © Riken Yamamoto
Hotakubo Housing Complex by Riken Yamamoto Jacome section floor plan
Floor Plan | © Riken Yamamoto

The Hotakubo Housing Complex Image Gallery

About Riken Yamamoto

Riken Yamamoto, born on April 15, 1945, in China, is a renowned Japanese architect celebrated for his innovative contributions to contemporary architecture. After graduating from Nihon University and furthering his studies at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Yamamoto has built a distinguished career characterized by his commitment to creating spaces that foster community and blend harmoniously with their environment. His approach to design emphasizes the importance of social interaction within architectural spaces, leading to the creation of buildings that serve functional purposes and act as vibrant communal hubs. With a portfolio that includes a wide range of projects, such as the Yamakawa Villa the Fussa City Hall, and the Local Community Area, Yamamoto’s work is recognized globally, culminating in receiving the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Notes & Additional Credits
  1. Riken Yamamoto by Riken Yamamoto