The first house is to begin as a result of a competition arranged by a magazine and introduced to the client by Tadao Ando. The 4X4 House was accommodated to the requirements of the site. A crucial factor in the design was the Hanshin earthquake which had caused terrible destruction in the area.
A different location, on a small and chaotic strip of land very near to the epicentre of the earthquake on the 17th of August 1995, with a landowner willing to follow his architect. He permitted the architect to turn the site into a ground-breaking house, silently memorising the great seism. Once the construction was finished, another client asked Ando for a similar house on an adjoining piece of land. With this commission, the architect could complete his initial idea of two houses. Though without the connection between them that he had envisioned, and using various materials.
Location of the 4X4 House
The houses are dwelled near the Hyogo coast, on the outskirts of Kobe, along a commercial strip. It is bordered by a dual carriageway and railroad to the North and, on its other side, by the broadest spanning bridge in Japan, the Akashi Strait, where the sandy beach meets the Seto Inland Sea. One of the circumstances which invited the architect’s attention was the view over the island of Awaji. The epicentre of the Hanshin earthquake in 1995 and where he built the Temple of Water and the Yumeibutai. The first home was built on a small box of the land of 65m². The other on the adjoining plot was 74m².
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Concept of the 4X4 House
A significant part of the concept of the 4×4 house was not only the remedy of light and water. But also the sound of the wind. The house connected a rigorous use of geometry with the purpose to form a piece of architecture that, in this case, becomes part of the sea. Tadao Ando uses geometric bases for his ideas: rounds, triangles and boxes. He is always watching to attain a balance within the building and the natural surroundings.
For the architect, it is really necessary that the individuals who occupy his buildings have the spiritual and intellectual experience; like – reading a poem or listening to music in a calm and strong environment. In this case, the concept is revealed in the displaced cube. Which is located on the highest level, connecting the individual with the scenery. I try to use the forces in space to replace the unity within the home and nature. Each floor is a concrete mass that together acts like a lighthouse, dominating the view over the sea.
The house is of the smallest dimensions in terms of floor span. Approximately 4×4 metres which ascend in height (basement, ground floor and three upper floors). The other house is differentiated from the first, typically in the vertical circulation and in materials used for its construction. While the first includes a staircase, the second uses an elevator. Another difference is the principal material: the first house was built entirely from concrete, while the other was made from wood.
On each of the floors, a different function is generated: a storeroom in the basement, entryway and service area on the ground floor, a bedroom on the first floor, study on the other and, on the final floor, a connected kitchen, dining room and living room. Which makes the focal point of the home. This final level is a four-metre cube with a floor-to-ceiling glass elevation on the South-East side which towers over the water like a gigantic, box telescopic lens and captures the views. On the other side, a great triforium displays a slice of the sky.
The displacement of the cube on the last level gains little valuable space in consideration for that obtained by the stairs on the left side. Which feature the lineal grid in which the circulation is formed within the house and increase from the first to the fourth floor. The basement, first floor and second are entirely closed in. However, the third is open on one side and the fourth on two.
Another staircase relates the entryway with an exterior concrete platform that spreads out across the sand and near the shore. Ando intended to develop that part of the beach but the area’s development regulations did not allow it, even though the property increased toward the sea.
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Facades of the 4X4 House
On the North facade is the entranceway, above which there is a rectangular window, while on the South facade there are two windows of different sizes which correspond with the second and third floors. The WESTERN FACADE is cut into four slim vertical windows on the corner which faces the street. They illumine the staircase after them and combine it with 3 other small openings placed at casual. The Eastern facade has 3 smaller box openings. While on the ground floor can see an upward window like those on the Western side.
As in most of his constructions, he used reinforced concrete for the structural organisation of the original construction and exposed concrete for the outer walls and internal ceilings. He also used this material for the outside ground surface. The blocks of the windows are aluminium and steel. On the inside, the floors are oak and the walls are exposed concrete and decorated sheets of plaster.
Structure of the 4X4 House
Ando encased the home in concrete and, for purposes of privacy, reduced the openings, particularly in the façades which faced the land-side. Even in the front façade, there is only a concrete wall with just one small window and a door. Due to the harsh natural limitations of the space, the architect firmly anchored the concrete structure under the ground. That strengthens its protection from lateral forces.
In addition to including the thick glass of the cube with a shatter-proof film. He reinforced the glass with steel crossbars. He applied a waterproof sealant on all of the outside concrete surfaces and placed additional pipes to carry the water to the roof. That could obtain by a hatch in the kitchen. The water would then have the sea salt eliminated from it by means of a hose-based system.
Visually, the offset cube on the highest floor of the house looks much bigger than the others. However, it is of the same size. The organisation of the building is similar to the KEN organisational framework, a traditional Japanese style. That rules the structure and the additive sequence, from space to space. Also, the 4×4 cube, which is replaced a metre from the main upright axis on the top floor. Together with the vast plain windows, lend a greater level of importance to the design. The cube presents a seemingly larger visual scale, in spite of it being the same as the other cubes which form the tower: four X four.
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