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Notes from Japan, Part 2 MUJI House Vision

One of the purposes for our Japan trip last October was to rewind, reflect and rethink the next steps for the studio. Moreover, we challenged ourselves to rediscover the purpose of what we do everyday, whether at home or at work. This led to our discussion on the concept of lifestyle. 

As creatives, graphic designers or designers in any other discipline, I believe we have the responsibility for providing the platform that enhances one’s lifestyle and environment. In the House Vision Exhibition, Kenya Hara noted that “the future for industry is not quite clear, the duty of the designer is to visualize the unclear future” and “to help people understand the vision”. 

When we visited Japan, we were fortunate to experience this vision in a physical space called the 無印良品の家 (MUJI House). Currently, there are several Muji Houses in Japan. The one we visited was the 縦の家 (Vertical House) located in Arakawa, the northeastern part of Tokyo. 

While we were staying in Shibuya, it took around 45 minutes to commute by train. After a friendly introduction and briefing in Japanese by a MUJI staff, we started to explore each room and each level of the house. The architect of this house is Kengo Kuma. Intended for the dense urban context of Tokyo, the house is three-stories tall within a small plot of land. Aside from the desirable MUJI products in the entire house, there are three elements that I personally really like. First, instead of hiding away the staircase like most buildings do, Kengo san utilized it efficiently and placed it in the centre of the house. This allows for an effortless division between each section of the rooms. For example, when you walk to the second floor, the staircase divided the living room to the left and the kitchen to the right. Secondly, I really appreciated the minimal interior design paired with the seamless finish of the construction details. Particularly in the kitchen, the connecting point between the kitchen sink, to the white countertop, the white wall to the white vent are all one cohesive set. Lastly, when I looked out the North facing windows, I noticed that the house faces a school yard—giving it a lot of natural light and a short commute for kids to go to school.

Our brief visit to this MUJI House not only opened the door to a beautiful space but also to the concept of a ‘new sense of living’. “A society that has moved towards the modernization, namely, the westernization, through which Japanese people have eventually understand the fact that money doesn’t bring true happiness. At the same time, Japanese traditions and their original values have been highly appraised. What kind of seeds should be sown in the 21st-Century in Japan and what kind of fruit can be harvested?” (noted on the House Vision website). As our studio plans to move to its next stage in 2016, we’ll continue to challenge ourselves with this question in our design work as well as our community impact here in Vancouver.

Alvin Kwan / Image 1 to 4 © HOUSE VISION