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New and Yet Old: House & Restaurant


photographed by
materials provided by
edited by
Han Garam

SPACE November 2022 (No. 660)​




New and Yet Old​

Junya Ishigami principal, junya.ishigami+associates × Han Garam

Han Garam (Han): House & Restaurant, reminiscent of an underground cave, was unveiled in Yamaguchi, Japan. The client, a French chef, wanted you ‘to design a building that would appear as heavy as possible’. What does ‘heavy building’ mean, and how did you interpret this request?
Junya Ishigami (Ishigami): The client said ‘I want a building that appears to increase in weight over time; a building that contains the rougher side to nature rather than the smooth and shiny. Authentic cuisine requires such a space; a building that feels like it has been here for a long time and will continue to be here in the future’, they added.
‘Heaviness’ in architecture is the growing trust that a structure will exist for a long time. The temporary, as expressed through ‘lightness’, is the exact opposite of permanence. As you must realise, most historical buildings contain a certain heaviness. On the contrary, modern and contemporary architecture often seems to have a lighter presence. In this project, I wanted to explore the heaviness of contemporary architecture. What is the best way of creating the complexity, variety, and inevitability of aging over time? As a result, I wanted to create a diverse space that would be as solid and sturdy as a rock but has many expressions in its design method in order to make such a state appear.



Han: The project began in 2013 and went through several repetitions in design and construction until its completion this year. The first step was planning for the overall mass and spatial composition.
Ishigami: I focused on creating an environment that would contain various possibilities and repeatedly studied volume design through 3D modeling. The plan takes on a functional composition. The house and restaurant were separated into three courtyards. The private rooms are arranged around the living room on the side of the residence. The house was made large enough to be used in various ways according to changes in lifestyle. And the area around the sofa in the kitchen and living room has been dug in, with the viewpoint is intentionally lowered to make the studio space look larger. On the other hand, the restaurant allows for the furniture to be moved freely, but the hall and kitchen place is divided into small areas by stalagmite-like columns.

Han: In the subsequent construction process, you revealed an attitude that crosses between the elaborate and the free to embody a space that seems to occur spontaneously.
Ishigami: In the order of construction, a hole is made in the ground, concrete is poured into it, and the structure buried in the soil is dug out when it hardens. After the soil is removed, the floor slabs are placed to stabilise the frame. The structure is built by inserting glass into the opening to divide the internal space. When digging a hole, the volume model is turned into 3D data, the 3D coordinate information is input to a TS (total station) surveying instrument, and points are obtained through piling observation on site. At the same time, the position and shape are checked with using iPad. While performing this task, several experts carefully dug the holes by hand. I allow for a certain degree of misalignment or unexpected work caused by manual labour, evident in elements such as grass growing along the way or slightly crumbling soil.










Images courtesy of maison owl


Han: You encountered an unexpected moment when the concrete hardened and the surrounding soil was removed. Was this a departure from your original intentions, and how did you adapt?
Ishigami: The original image was like a grey rock, but as we gradually dug up the structure, it turned out to be more soil than I expected. Rather than it was an independent frame excavated from the soil, it looked like the soil remains after removing the part that can be dug out of the ground. We considered the surface of the slope and the frame in which the soil was attached as one, and the image changed to be more like a cave in which the ground was dug by integrating it with the surroundings of the site rather than maintaining a space between the objects of rocks. As we proceeded with the interior design, we visualised the difference between the blueprint and the surface coordinates of the excavated frame through a 3D render. Again, subtle differences overlapped, and an unexpected new space was created. I discovered such places and updated the image of how to use them accordingly. The process was reversed by designing the location and quantity of glass, the furniture’s arrangement and size, and the equipment’s location and storage according to the frame.


Han: More sophisticated designs and construction were carried out at the next stage to create an actual building in use. Please explain what strategy you employed to close the openings of various shapes, install various equipment, and introduce a drainage system taking into account the continuous rainfall.

Ishigami: In terms of the glass, we adjusted the position based on the actual measurements on site, verified whether or not the glass would come into contact with the frame when it was brought in, or if it was opened and closed based on the 3D scan data, and adjusted the hinge position. In order to simplify the plumbing route, the water supply and drainage were planned as passing straight through the three courtyards, and the faucets, drainage pipes, and ventilation ducts were installed so that they would pass through the glass windows from the courtyard to the room. Rainwater and sewage drainage are connected to gutters and sewage pipes on the front road. Since the site is one step higher from pipes on the front road, the floor level was planned to be close to pipes level so that drainage could be introduced without difficulty.





Han: When I first saw this underground structure, it reminded me of the Rock- Hewn Churches, Lalibela, in Ethiopia. It was interesting that these Rock-Hewn Churches, built in the 13th century, were dug into the ground to create geometry, while the 21st century architecture carved out the land into a primitive form. What is the usefulness and significance of the architectural method you pursued in House & Restaurant to architecture today?​


Ishigami: Progress has been the greatest goal of civilisation. However, these advances may be the most significant cause of environmental problems in modern society. By rethinking the concept of age and aging in modern times, I wanted to bring out the value of architecture needed in the future. The definition of the old in this project is defined as follows: the new architecture is human- made, but in the process of weathering and deterioration, it collapses and becomes a ruins eventually returning to the landscape and becoming a part of nature. With that in mind, doesn’t oldness in architecture refer to an intermediate existence between human- made and nature? In order to realise this, we created architecture as an intermediate existence between nature and being as one with the ground; and as a result, we wanted to create an architecture that is newly built and embraces oldness from the beginning.




junya.ishigami+associates (Junya Ishigami)

Design team

Taeko Abe, Jaehyub Ko, Takuya Nakayama


Ube, Yamaguchi, Japan


house, restaurant

Site area


Building area


Gross floor area






Building to land ratio


Floor area ratio



earth formwork RC

Exterior finishing

exposed concrete, tempered glass

Structural engineer

Jun Sato Structural Engineers

Mechanical and electrical engineer

Echo Mechanical Plumber


Akita Kensetsu Co.,Ltd.

Design period

July 2013 – May 2016

Construction period

Nov. 2016 – Mar. 2022


Motonori Hirata

Landscape design

SOLSO, Takayama Zoen

Junya Ishigami
Junya Ishigami established junya.ishigami+associates in 2004 after working at SANAA and completing the master’s programme at the Department of Architecture, in Tokyo University of the Arts. His major works include Kanagawa Institute of Technology KAIT Workshop, Art Biotop Water Garden, and Serpentine Pavilion 2019. He has received awards such as the Architectural Institute of Japan Prize (2009), the Golden Lion award at 2010 Venice Biennale, and the OBEL AWARD (2019).