“I once read that to build architecture does not merely mean to put something on the ground. Rather, the idea is to bring the ground and the structure together appropriately.” These words come to life when you take a look at Japanese architect Norisada Maeda's masterpiece, the 'Celluloid Jam' house. At first glance, this house, with its unique, futuristic form, quite simply looks like it’s dropped off another planet. But as you take a closer look at the contours of Celluloid Jam, you discover that what the architect has attempted to do here is to create a world where architecture and nature have fused, according to the principle of the Möbius strip, to form one coherent whole.
At first glance, this house,with its unique, futuristic form, quite simply looks like it’s dropped off another planet. But as you take a closer look at the contours of Celluloid Jam, you discover that what the architect has attempted to do here is to create a world where architecture and nature have slowly combined to form one united mass. Celluloid Jam has been built on a hilltop plateau, located on the edge of the Japanese city ofYokohama. In a city full of traditional Japanese homes with shingled rooftops, Celluloid Jam stands out quite easily. Its pristine, white architecture is in sharp contrast to the lush greenery surrounding it, and yet it doesn't manage to take away that sense of tranquillity surrounding the house. In fact,when architect Maeda embarked on this project, he felt an almost spiritual connection to it. Top on his clients' agenda was a distinctive look to the house. ''They were looking for a designer who could fuse architecture and nature in an entirely fresh way '', explained Maeda.With their wishes in mind,Maeda decided to take inspiration from the Möbius strip. The result was Celluloid Jam,which has basically been built by twisting and turning the Möbius strip in the shape of the number 8.Maeda then modified the shape slightly to create the differentiated space requested by his clients, a couple in their forties.The seamless connection between the strip's inner and outer surfaces appears to be a metaphor for blending the interior with the exterior. Another unique feature about this house is that if you let your finger run across the whole surface of Celluloid Jam, no matter where you start, you can go from the exterior to the interior of the house and back to your starting point,without breaking off or even lifting your finger. So every inch of this house, right from the outer wall, to the roof, to even the flooring, falls seamlessly into place. Celluloid Jam has a total floor area of nearly 128 square metres.While this may seem small, clever use of the colour white and glass was to give the house a spacious touch. While constructing this house, Maeda considered the option of using concrete. But to truly bring out the effects of those curving walls and rounded corners, concrete seemed out of the question. Especially since transporting heavy materials to a hilltop plateau would have been a tedious affair. So instead, Norisada Maeda decided to use timber to construct the frame of the house. The timber received a thick coating of fibreglass-reinforced plastic, which had the desired result: a smooth, continuous surface. To accentuate the whiteness of the walls, black was chosen as the running colour theme for all the furniture and it was decided that the intricate fittings would be silver. As far as the house itself is concerned: it can only be accessed by a flight of old stone stairs, which were preserved to maintain a connection to the past. The stairs lead to a steel bridge which connects to a terrace overlooking the most distinctive feature of this entire house - an enclosed garden. The garden has been formed by extending a wall and is interspersed with an orange tree and shrubs. There is nothing more relaxing than to just enjoy a cup of tea while sitting in this garden. A pebbled path leads inside the house. Celluloid Jam has been built on two levels. On the lower level is a music room for the wife who is an organ player, and an office. In order to separate the workplace from the home, the office has its own entrance, which can be approached through a narrow path along the retaining wall of the garden.
With its open, bright entrance, Celluloid Jam is immediately welcoming. Attached to this entrance is a balcony which opens up the outer space. A narrow staircase leads to the second floor, which houses the living-dining-kitchen space. The combined area has been built so as to maintain that oneness with nature that is found on the exterior. In each room, space has been opened up in order to catch the light. Through the black rimmed windows, there is a wonderful view of the landscape surrounding Celluloid Jam. Beyond the staircase is the master bedroom and bath. When explaining the construction of this house, Norisada Maeda said, ''At the point where the Möbius strip comes in contact with the ground, the border between nature and architecture instantaneously dissolves, just like melting plastic. This physical separation is merely seen and projected by the eye.'' These words couldn't be truer, because what Maeda has achieved through Celluloid Jam is an architectural marvel which is so in tune with the inside and outside world that surfaces come together in a seamless structure. Its unique form has aroused the curiosity of onlookers for a while now. One glance at this house and you would want to try and unravel the complexity of its exterior form, in order to discover the wonders of its interior existence. Every area of the house, from the weather-beaten steps to the lovely old retaining wall, from the carefully picked plants to the openness of the rooms, conveys a sense of limitless energy. Through the details of the house, the architect has managed to mesh the past, present and future into an organic marvel. I can think of no better way to bring together the forces of nature and architecture than through the beautiful, complex geometry of the Celluloid Jam.