Niwa Asobi

Niwa Asobi stands for garden games.
The assignment is to replace existing shacks spread on the terrain with new units, as same location, integrating tributes to Japanese elements of space, landscaping and architecture.
The main, most delicate task was to find and fit those tributes to the nearby context/regulations, the Dutch climate and local feasibility.
The whole place frames the hedonistic outdoor lifestyle of 2 friends and their occasional guests.
It can be for parties and fun, or reserved for quiet retreats in the clients busy lives.
The garden has 3 themes: in front of the house a grassy landscape around a large table, between the 2 buildings a dry garden, and behind the sleeping cabins a woodlands garden. All the components are related to Japanese gardening.
Aside of a Japanese inspiration, the client wanted the house to be one of those black barns so popular those days.
It is like the little black dress of architecture.
This variation on the theme lies in the subtle integration of Japanese features in a practical sense to a barn-like tiny house.
Inside are 2 distinct spaces: a tea-ceremony room (chashitsu) with tatami, and a kitchen/living place, flanked by a “pop up” kitchen base for flexible use.
The skylight in the middle emphasizes the separation between the spaces. Each of the spaces has its distinct relation with the garden, through views and shades play.
The long sides of the building appear as a traditional charred timber cladding, actually being louvers, opening up completely. Behind them is a narrow space, interpretation of the Japanese engawa. When the timber cladding opens up, it clears the views for the side windows, or shows the artistic rendering work of the house walls.
The clear spaces in front of those walls are also usable to store garden tools.
The front side is fully glazed. The floor behind the glass is lower than the floor of the house. This comes from the Japanese “genkan”, where you take out your shoes before entering a house.
The back side has just one low window framing the view to the dry garden from the chishatsu.
The sleeping cabins defy a challenge of compactness.
The main wish from the client was to have a shower in a glass box, and 2 exactly mirrored sleeping units on both sides. All equipped with 2 vanity corners, pantry, closets and toilet.
On the outside, the building shares with the house similar materials and louvers system, but in a different typology. The care for detailing the parts (roof and façade) is essential to reach a level of finesse matching the house and the garden.
The central part is offset, permitting an intimate sideway entrance to the individual units via a patio. It also leaves tidy the utility functions, in alignment to the bedrooms back walls.
The rooms are very small, but with full glass façades on the gardens. Darkness is fully attained by closing the louvres and the sliding inner wall.
The whole project has been tested as an energyplus energy model, to provide the client with clues about how energy efficient it actually is (or not), and what parameters are playing a role.

Check construction diary here!


Niwa Asobi – Garden Games
Rotterdam, NL, 2017, Under Construction.
Garden 752 m2, buildings 28/32/40 m2 GFA.
Client: Edward Spannenburg
Team: Marie Prunault (design and construction) / Structural engineering: P&S ingenieurs