Here is my school essay regarding Frank Lloyd Wright.
Yodoko Guest House
There are fourteen building designs, which Frank Lloyd Wright has done in Japan. Six building were built, but two of them were destroyed by the 1923 Magnitude 7.9 Great Kanto earthquake (around Tokyo.)
Frank Lloyd Wright traveled outside of America for the first time, and went to Japan with his wife. There were 37 years old in the year, and he spent two months touring natural and historical landmarks from Nikko (North East of Tokyo) all the way down to (Shikoku island) Takamatsu.
He made a contract to build the new Imperial Hotel in Tokyo in late 1911. After a year of project delays and several trans-Pacific crossings, Wright finally took up part-time residence in Tokyo in January 1917. (Wrightian Architectural Archives Japan)
In 1918, Wright made a design plan for a second house for Tazaemon Yamamura who was the eighth-generation brewer of the famous sake “Sakuramasamurne,” in Nada (near Kobe.) It took a while to be completed, because he put this project aside to complete the Imperial Hotel. (which was done in 1922.)
The Yamamura house was completed in 1924 at a small hill in Ashiya City, Hyogo prefecture, surrounded in green. Asiya City is now known as an executive, upper-class residential area. From 1947, it became the property of Yodogawa Steel Works, LTD.., (known as YODOKO), and was used as an official residence for the company president. After a while renting to individuals, it designated a National Important Cultural Asset in May, 1974. It was repaired for preservation and started to open to the public as YODOKO Guest House.
Unlike his Midwestern Prairie houses, it was built by side of the hill top, (kind of like houses by the cliff at Malibu, CA) so four story building is kind of hanging along side of the hill which is surrounded by nature like Wright’s style, (cherry tress in particular.) The resident can get the best views from any floors’ balcony. I think that it is ecological thinking that he did not destroy the mountain to build the house. Actually, my housing area is at the bottom of mountain, and a real estate company literally cut out most of the part of the hill to build a house on a flat surface.
Another big difference of his style house in America is that there are three Japanese style rooms (can be open the sliding doors to connect in one room) on the third floorchiw h covered with tatami mats (straw-matted), and shoji doors (Japanese hand made paper sliding doors) and Shoji door closet. There were not his original design, but provided by a strong request from the client. I understand that the traditional sake brewer like Yamamura needed some place to sit down on the floor and relax. The construction of Japanese style rooms were carried out by Wright’s best disciples, Arata Endo and Makoto Minami, rather than Wright himself. I believe that collaborating with Japanese disciples made its original style.
According to the “Yodoko Guest House site,” Wright always used nature that is his concepts, and aimed at a unification of geography and buildings, and harmony with the surrounded environment… The building stands naturally along the slope without disturbing the ridgeline of the hill.” For approach to Yodoko Guest House, unlike it has an entrance near the road, the entrance is provided in the remotest part of the building. That intentionally made residents and visitors walk up to the entrance along the approach, as made them feel like they ended up arriving a mountain cottage like it is surrounded in nature.
Wright created the many large windows on the western side to bring natural light in the house. Eastern side of the salon on the second floor has a large window like a picture frame so that the scenery function as a painting in a frame. The window looks usual as an interior design without anything, so he attached a built-in couch right underneath of the window for visitors to enjoy. (see photo) There is a great view of Ashiya City and beyond from the balcony. (see photo) It said in the website “wide and spacious,” but I think he designed more spacious building in the U.S.. But since not many Japanese have a house with balcony, as a personal housing in Japan, it would be large enough. It has a chimney on top of the door which is noticeable to people look at the house from far bottom.
He used particular materials using for this house. For the interior and exterior, Oyaishi stone which he sculpted (I mean, designed for) formative art of nature motifs. “Oyaishi” stone came from Oya-machi in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi prefecture which is also used for the Old Imperial Hotel. It look massive as other Prarie house, and it is also soft and easy to process for curving designs. I think it shows well as his experimentation of design in Japan about Mayan Revival architecture. (see Imperial Hotel, Tokyo site, and Mayan Revival architecture, wikipedia)
Wright designed a lot of built-in furniture everywhere in the house (it reminds me of Winchester house) including cabinet, shelves, and couches. Most of the furniture is made of mahogany, instead of local Japanese cedar, pine and cypress. This is because mahogany has inconspicuous grain than Japanese woods which is said that he think that their conspicuous grain would kill the decorative designs he created in each rooms. Note that geometric design table and chairs in the saloon on the second floor were designed by Yodoko, which they tried to match with the mahogany furniture, and made them based on Wright’s design philosophy.
Lastly, most of the building is made of concrete, but clay wall is used in several interiors, including the east side of entrance wall, the walls on the west side of the Japanese-style rooms, and the northern side stairs of the Japanese-style room on the third floor. The clay wall is a typical Japanese wall construction technique for wooden buildings where in clay is coated onto frames made by tried together (meshed) bamboo trees. This method was actually done by Wright’s disciple Endo and Minami. Clay walls are strong even though they are thin, so that rooms can be made bigger. (Opposite of his Middle Western Prairie house, think of a small island need a lots of space for population of almost as same as the U.S.) They also function to protect tatami mats from humidity.
Coming from dry weather place, he miscalculated a little about the humidity of Japan. He designed the ventilation holes in the second floor, for wind and lights effect, originally had wire screens. Now glasses are installed to protect from humidity and rain. It seems that he did not expect much of rain in the rainy season in June, and typhoon in late summer.
Wrightian Architectural archives Japan
Yodoko Guest House
(Click on the arrow for the online building tour!)
(Click on the bottom links for more secrets.)
Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Wikipedia
Maya Revival Style, Wikipedia