Highly commended

Sambuichi Architects


Shizuki Castle, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan

December 2003
Sambuichis Air House, like his very different building for Miwa pottery dynasty (p72), is an essay in environmental propriety. All jury members were very surprised to find that they were by the same architect; but each is appropriate for its place and purpose.
The Air House has a stunningly beautiful site, on the inner moat of the Shizuki castle near Hagi in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, where cherry and pine trees soften winds and sunlight to the east and west and the Hashimoto river flows south down to the Sea of Japan. In summer, cool breezes are carried up from the river, but in wintertime, strong gales can come up from the sea. The house had to be open to its marvellous setting and yet be capable of being closed down in inclement weather.
Sambuichi decided to adopt a strategy combining internal shutters and movable walls with thermal buffer spaces, what he calls the air-control rooms. These include the verandah, car port, terrace and sun room, and transition from interior to outside is always through such an intermediate space. It is important, Sambuichi says, to take the wind into the house gently. The double roof with wide southern eaves protects the rooms from excessive sun in summer and encourages cooling breezes. In winter, shoji screens and shutters within the glass walls shelter and protect the owners from cold. The limited palette of materials was used with great precision and propriety: it is as the architect says a wooden space covered by glasses or perhaps a glass, transparent space inlaid with wood.
The jury was impressed with the precision and essential economy of the house, and by its response to its marvellous site.

Sambuichi Architects, Naka-ku Hiroshima, Japan
Project team
Hiroshi Sambuichi, Hidenori Ejima, Manabu Aritsuka
Hiroyuki Hirai