Junya Ishigami’s cave-like house and restaurant design

Explore Junya Ishigami’s cave-like house and restaurant design

Japanese architect Junya Ishigami has completed his impressive, cave-like Home/Restaurant project in his home country’s Yamaguchi.

When we first heard about Junya Ishigami’s idea for an unusual, cave-like house and restaurant design in Yamaguchi back in 2018, we knew we had to come back when the project was completed. This is one of those designs that push the envelope for what architecture can be. Even though relatively small in size, the project has been nine years in the making; three for the design phase, and six for the actual construction. The result is a unique piece of Japanese architecture, and the product of a visionary mind, some heavy poured concrete and a painstaking, archeology-like excavation.

Ishigami’s client wanted a distinctive, earth-inspired space that would serve both as an intimate restaurant and a home for his family. Ishigami’s proposal included a radical construction method. A carefully thought-out moon-like landscape of holes was dug out of the 914 sq m site, then filled with reinforced concrete. The cavities surrounding the concrete were excavated to reveal a seemingly random, but actually carefully designed, configuration of interconnecting ‘caves’ making up the structure’s almost 200 sq m floor plan.

Photography: junya.ishigami+associates

The original idea was for the building’s walls to appear as rough gray concrete, but when the team of diggers started removing the earth around the poured areas, some of the soil stuck to the concrete and created a beautiful natural finish that both Ishigami and the client liked, so they decided to keep it. Three small courtyards separate the restaurant to the north and the private residence to the south of the site, but a passage through the central courtyard makes it possible to move seamlessly between the two. The restaurant seats five at the main counter, while 12 small tables are scattered throughout the large cavernous interior.

Photography: junya.ishigami+associates

The similarly cave-like house has two bedrooms, and a large open space with a dining table and a sunken living area. The home’s small kitchen has also been lowered and the counter and sink are made out of polished poured concrete. All the gaps between the uneven structures were 3D-scanned to allow the precise making of window and door frames that would fit each individual opening. These were then caulked in place.

The project’s low, organic shape is a far cry from the surrounding, conventional family homes; and not just because the house is hidden, semi-buried in the earth and hardly seen from above the ground. What is visible looks like an odd-shaped lake or perhaps an oversized painter’s palette, all rounded edges, holes and undulating forms. And then, entering the cave, Ishigami’s magic becomes clear and the project’s sculptural identity unfolds, drawing the visitor into this highly idiosyncratic design. §


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