Espace is a small two-story, wood-frame house located in Tokyo, Japan, designed in 2022 by Apollo Architects & Associates.


This small two-story, wood-frame house is tucked into a downtown residential neighborhood. The clients, a couple with minimalist taste and few superfluous possessions, wanted a private home on the compact lot that prioritized a spacious atmosphere over physically large rooms.

The lot abuts the north side of a narrow road and is hemmed in by closely packed houses. To preserve privacy in this environment, the façade facing the street has no windows; all natural light comes from a courtyard and clerestory windows. We used a rigid wood frame to make the most efficient use of the frontage. The gate-shaped frame avoids the need for load-bearing walls on the north side of the house, allowing for three windows to occupy the full width of that side, with a row of clerestory windows above. Built-in wall storage takes advantage of the shape of the frame’s posts, making the space functional even without additional furniture.

The most striking feature of the house, however, is the daylighting. In the family room that occupies the whole of the second floor, the three north-side windows let in soft, diffuse light. Meanwhile, direct southern sunlight shines in along the sloped roof and is reflected off a wall into the room, brightening the area near the windows. This light filters through floor grating onto the first floor, where the bedroom and bathroom are located. In addition, light pours through clerestory windows running the length of the north side, casting beautiful gradations on the sloped gable ceiling and ensuring that the kitchen at the back of the house receives adequate light.

By treating the entire building as a reflector, we succeeded in creating a separate universe of diffuse light that makes the rooms feel spacious and echoes the uniquely tranquil character of the residents.

Photography by Masao Nishikawa

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