This article was originally published on REthink Tokyo.
Deep in the residential area of Yokohama’s Nishi ward are four tall, white, wooden structures with a simple open atrium and a focus on community and transparency. Providing a working and living space for four young artists, the Yokohama Apartment merges creativity, functionality and cohesion—so much so that it was awarded the Jury’s special award in a 2016 Biennale Expo.
Yokohama has long been developing a strong contemporary art scene, but rather than focusing solely on galleries and exhibitions, residency areas have been a key element in the scene’s development. With the once gang-run area of Koganecho now home to dozens of artists in tiny ex-prostitution houses, the focus on merging art with the community is creating some fascinating examples of regeneration.
The Yokohama Apartment is a prime example, as the focus on community was key in its design and development. Situated in the hills of a traditional residential area, designers Osamu Nishida and Erika Nakagawa from ON Design Partners used the courtyard as the heart of the project. The open atrium has a kitchen, workspace and access to the storage areas, but also underfloor heating and large curtains allowing it to be used in winter.
While artists can meet to collaborate, relax and cook, the space is also open to the community. Christmas parties, music recitals and exhibitions all help to engage the local residents with the work of the artists and vice versa, creating a natural collaborative community.
The architectural design incorporates multiple elements from the surrounding area including a focus on wooden structures, the heights of the hills, narrow winding roads reflected in the twisting staircases and the triangular shapes which are prominent in nearby buildings. This detailed consideration allows the complex to “merge” into its surroundings both visibly and practically and was the deciding factor for the Biennale Expo Jury’s decision.
Artists can rent a space for JPY 60,000 a month, with a JPY 12,000 management fee and responsibility for their own electricity bills.