December 9, 2015
Architecture Travel

Last January, we visited the Common City Hoshida in the outskirts of Osaka, Japan. This residential district, which is a result of a competition, was designed by the architect Kazunari Sakamoto and completed in 1992. It hosts 112 detached single-family houses and a community centre. The following are two personal reports featuring the different impressions we had.

Improving the suburban environment, Samuele Squassabia
The project of Common City Hoshida addresses the paradoxical suburban condition, in which isolated single-family houses exist in proximity with each other, typical of this kind of new urbanizations. Within the acceptance of the given program – single-family houses to be sold – Sakamoto strives to subvert the hierarchies rooted in the city’s periphery, creating a relationship between public space and private plots or between private plots themselves. The streets, paths and residences naturally follow the slope of the terrain and by walking through them it’s not possible to define whether the streets or the houses were first conceived. They take place simultaneously and they are highly interdependent with each other. Boarders are diffused and they are not experienced as a clear limit – e.g. between a vehicular street and a walking path or between a path and a private garden. The perception of space continues from the street to the gardens, as well as from the garden to the streets, expanding the size of the house over the private property. Beyond the suburban condition, Common City Hoshida produces an overall sense of living the district environment rather than the own private space of the house.

The empty streets of Common City Hoshida, Tao Baerlocher
As it was a cold day after the New Year celebration, we hardly met any people during our visit of Common City Hoshida. Therefore the people are absent in the photos we have taken while walking through the district. By looking at these images, one may perceive this absence and the silence we encountered on that day. These impressions led by no means to the feeling of emptiness, but rather revealed the liveliness, which existed behind the scenes of everyday life taking place in the foreground. What we encountered on that day was the expression of the houses – the 112 houses in total are similar, but not identical – which embodied the life of this district in place of the inhabitants. In these houses, we do not only discover a shell to host the living, but also the expression of life by the means of architecture. Although the detached houses were conceived for the middle-class family as products for sale, Kazunari Sakamoto created a sense of singularity – within the unavoidable uniformity given by the housing market – achieving an independency of architecture from society’s restrictions, which merely understand the housing as a desire of possession. It was this unimposing and evident existence of architecture, which I could sense in the empty streets of Common City Hoshida.

Samuele Squassabia and Tao Baerlocher both work as independent architects in Zurich. They are the editors of this newly released publication on Kazunari Sakamoto