Toji Machiya

Toji Machiya

Yamada Architecture
Kyoto, Japan | View Map
Project Year
Private Houses
Kei Sugino

Toji Machiya

Yamada Architecture as Architects

A full renovation of a 90+ year old wood-framed house (machiya) on a narrow alleyway (roji) located just south of Toji temple in Kyoto, designed by Yamada Architecture.


For his family of four including two children, the client requested an earthquake-resistant, comfortable, naturally-lit modern home with the charm of machiya exterior.


Unoccupied for over a decade, the existing machiya was in worn-out condition. Like many machiya, the downstairs was extremely dark even during the daytime. Its Japanese style interiors did not suit the owner’s lifestyle, either. A full renovation with extensive structural retrofitting that includes new concrete foundation was proposed. 

The process was nearly similar to building a new house inside the old exterior shell of machiya which the client fell in love with. The entire existing house was hollowed out on the inside, leaving some essential posts & beams only. Then new slab-on-grade concrete foundation was poured.


On the first floor, narrow shear walls were placed dispersedly according to the new open floor plan that features the tsuboniwa in the back, a small courtyard garden revived as an essential part of machiya architecture. The open floor plan allows the family to enjoy views of the rear garden from nearly every corner.

On the second floor, after the existing interiors were removed, the space was redivided into new bedrooms, a shower room, a toilet room, and an inner hallway. The new interior walls enhance the house’s seismic resistance. The new vault ceiling exposes the existing log roof beams that run across over the inner hallway and the master bedroom.  


This inner hallway is filled with daylight from the high gable window that frames the view of the nearby pagoda and the sky. Similarly, the view of the sky and light from a skylight permeates the wooden staircase space. The overall design incorporates daylight and views of the sky into the entire house experience to allow the residents to sense the natural space outside.


Throughout the house, the architect placed polycarbonate interior clerestory & transom windows that let daylight filters into most rooms.

For the middle section of the downstairs, the architect created several small shaft spaces through which daylight from the upstairs windows filters into the downstairs. Besides being daylight passages, these small shafts spaces allow the family members to sense one another’s presence between the floors. 

Smooth white vinyl covering and oak wood floors cover most of the original house’s structure except a few selected parts. In the dining space the aged beams and plank ceiling are exposed. Also the original lintel and earthen plastered wall over the entrance door are left uncovered. These items give the interior space a sense of history.

The plot is a so called flag lot with a narrow private access laneway. Taking advantage of it, the architect created a distinctive entrance approach space with the bamboo fence and granite stepping stones that enhance the traditional aesthetics of the machiya's exterior.

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