Shinkenshiku International design competition: the plan-less house
Client: Japan Architect
Design: Monolab, team: J.W. van Kuilenburg with T. Iwashita, J. Umemura, A. Kret
Year: 2006


…a living space organized by real life projections of nature


This house is an update on Plato’s cave, organized by real life projections of nature which have a strong impact on the residents living inside and the use and lay-out of the plan. The interior is captured in-between ‘the natural world’ and ‘its projections’. The projections are real time and are made by a lens of water. The complete interior is white, as a neutral projection screen, embraced by a zone with service program.


The house is a void, a square excavation of 14 x 14 m. in a garden. The floor is made of white, silent rubber and the sides of white semi-transparent polycarbonate sheets. A stair parallel to the South side of the void makes an entry and exit that leads to the center of the space, looking North with the sun in the back. All services like furniture, kitchen, sanitary facilities, guest room, bed, etc. are embedded in the service zone and can be pulled out and moved around in many constellations. A Mylar reinforced transparent 8-mm epoxy sheet covers the void and makes a strong, invisible container for rainwater.


Sheet and water together make a lens. During daytime the lens is an enhancer, projecting moving shadows and reflections of animal and plant life into the complete interior. Above in the garden, the water surface looks like a pond that reflects the sky. The service zone receives light from the central space through the polycarbonate partition. During night time the water, and everything in it, is strongly up lit from the white interior below. The shiny belly of the curved sheet reflects the interior. The service zone has now become a projection screen because of its internal lighting. Seen from the big living, all shadows of objects and people in this zone are projected onto the partition.


The mass of water is an eco system for plants, fish, birds and insects. It will be under continuous change. Small fish will clean the lens from algae. The shape of the sheet is pre-formed to follow the load of the water. This allows only for tension forces in the sheet and no other supports other than the concrete box that holds the edge.


An aluminum extruded profile is mounted in this concrete edge. The section of the profile is shaped to hold a steel cable. The Mylar sheet is folded around the cable and impregnated with transparent epoxy on a wooden mould with scaffolding. The cable is pushed into the profile and the remaining space inside the profile is injected fully with epoxy. After the epoxy hardens and scaffolding is taken away, the sheet can be filled with water. An overflow prevents the water level from rising over the profile.


All projections have time-related impact on the use of the space and the ever changing lay-out, followed by the moveable furniture. Plant life has seasonal impact, sun and moon have daily impact and the momentary impact will be animal and human life. The center of the lens is bulging down into the interior to the horizon of the eye and can be touched