An Immersive Shadow Hot Spring

Meme Meadows experimental house was inspired by a “longing for a life  surrounded by nature” and the architect Kengo Kuma achieved such goal through his use of translucency and play with light.

For this addition, my driving inspiration was to further realize the potential of a “life surrounded by nature” in a way that the dweller would be embraced by not only nature, but it’s stories as well.

With multiple explorations, I began to discover the potential of realizing my goal through shadows; and specifically their inherent story-telling ability through the traditional Japanese theatre of bunraku. 

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For this addition, I have proposed an Immersive Shadow Hot Spring. A unique type of space that contrasts that of the original home – yet continues to allow for an intimately close relationship with nature. The addition achieves the desire for a ‘life surrounded by nature’ with shadow rather than light; for this reason I chose to contrast the addition on many other levels as well – including material. I chose heavy and strong translucent concrete rather than light and fragile fabric, this new material allows for a dark space in which light is given the ability to become much more physical – where light and shadows begin to appear tangible.

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As you exit the original home, you follow a path of irregular slate patio stones. After passing underneath a cherry blossom, you arrive at the entry of a stairway that appears to be carved out of the earth – this is because to experience the surrounding nature, you must first enter into the earth in order to be embraced by it. When walking down the steps, there is an area of translucent concrete – this allows for a glimpse at the activity of nature’s shadows inside, or a rare moment for anyone inside seeing you coming to join them. As you enter the changing area; you realize you are now in a dimly lit space –  lit by the subtle clerestory windows above. You remove your clothes and step into the washing area to bathe yourself as done in traditional Japanese hot springs. When you enter the hot spring, you realize it is not simply a hot spring – but a theatre; all around you the stories of nature are framed on the concrete walls and on the translucent concrete facade above you. Stepping into the hot water, you seem to feel the shadows around you . When you pour some water on the the sauna rocks, steam begins to rise, and the shadows of nature along with their stories appear physical in front of you. It is here where you go to get away from the cold harsh winters of Hokkaido, or to get away from daily stresses — here is a space to relax and live close with nature.

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IMGP4312 copy IMGP4311 IMGP4309I have been challenged with my studio work this term. During the term, there were many tasks I had to undertake for the first time, and felt uncertain if I could meet these challenges. However, by using my initiative and with a lot of hard work, determination and encouragement I surprised myself with what I was able to accomplish. I have been very happy with my assigned case study and I feel that I have learned a lot from it. There are many things that I’ve come to appreciate from studying and working with my case study, and I’m sure will undoubtedly influence future projects of mine – two of these are the play of light and shadow, and the careful consideration of materials in a project.

This term, the making and researching for this project has really inspired me to visit Japan again, and I hope to go on an exchange some time in the near future to work there. I feel that what I have learned in studio will help me appreciate the things I see differently, on my travels or at even home.