Redefined Machiya / A Kyo-machiya (Kyoto machiya) that weaves together tradition and contemporary practice


How can one incorporate contemporary demands into a traditional architecture like the Kyo-machiya while keeping its classic elements? “Redefined Machiya” is a house that stems out of one designer’s quiet sessions of thinking within this context.


The house stands on a long and narrow plot of land that stretches from east to west in ​​Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City. The surrounding neighborhood is designated as “Old Urban Landscape Aesthetic Area” with a number of architectural restrictions, among them – buildings must be ten meters or less in height and incorporate sloped roofs and eaves. The owner/designer of the house has always admired a functional, practical aesthetic that eschews all unnecessary elements as well as loving the sophisticated design found hidden in the “plainness” of a traditional machiya. Therefore, when faced with Kyoto’s strict architectural regulations, she decided to treat it as an opportunity to redefine the machiya rather than as an obstacle to design freely and took on the challenge to search for a sustainable design, not only for durability and structural reasons, but also to build energy saving performance within a modern aesthetics.


The design of the overall structure is constrained by the city’s building regulations, incorporating a sloped roof and eaves (which is a style often seen in Kyo-machiya) while changing to a poured-in-place concrete structure for durability. The roof and eaves are finished with Japanese roof tiles traditionally used for Kyo-machiya, and the external walls are covered with a thermal insulation layer painted in a dark gray to blend in with the surrounding environment.


The interior structure is similar to that of a traditional Kyo-machiya – the 1st and 2nd floors of the east wing face the street and act as working spaces while the 1st and 2nd floors of the west wing are residential. The center moss garden (1st floor) and terrace (2nd floor) between the eastern and western structures provides open space between the work and private zones. In addition, the atrium of the kitchen, the passage leading from the entrance to the back of the house, and the center moss garden and rear water garden are designed specifically to bring in more light and air in homage to traditional Kyo-machiya design. Both gardens are serviced with water from a pre-existing well on the property.


Elements of energy saving construction were also applied in order to address contemporary issues such as environmental sustainability. The house is built using a high performance thermal insulation envelope over a poured-in-place concrete structure. It is also airtight and uses double glazed windows. The effective use of the thermal insulating properties of concrete as well as the internal heat exchange ventilation system together can reduce the building’s energy consumption by an estimated 70%.


The attempt to incorporate contradictory elements – tradition and modernity, Japanese and Western styles, delicacy and roughness, richness and simpleness (Japanese “wabi sabi”) – continues in the interior design.


The rough surface of concrete walls, an effect created by utilizing used plywood for the concrete forms, was balanced with the warmth of sukiya zukuri shoji screens built into the inner walls. To add softness to the space, the designer’s collection of lighting fixtures of her own design and old textiles of Naga and Persian origin were placed strategically. The counter tops in the kitchen and the bathroom are terrazzo made using a traditional technique that adds texture to an otherwise minimalist modern space.


The designer’s quest to redefine the Kyo-machiya, a delicate balance satisfying contemporary sustainability and traditional demands, will continue for years to come.


Inherited elements of the traditional Kyo-Machiya:


– sloped roof and eaves

– Japanese roof tiles (ichimojifuki)

– atrium of the kitchen and a passage leading from the entrance to the back of the house (hashiri)

– center moss garden and rear water garden on the first floor to take in light and air

– cedar bark fence in the backyard

– terrazzo finish of the kitchen and bathroom sink

– kitchen work and storage designed in homage to the traditional Japanese kitchen

– shoji screens (sukiya zukuri style)

– sliding windows and doors

– water from a pre-existing well to service the two gardens


Elements of contemporary energy saving construction:


– external high performance insulation to reduce heating and cooling loads

– airtight structure

– heat exchange ventilation system

– utilization of concrete’s thermal properties to reduce heating and cooling loads

– double glazed windows



再定義された町家  /  伝統を現代に迎える中京の町家




















– 勾配屋根と庇

– 日本瓦一文字葺

– 炊事場の吹き抜けと玄関から裏に通じる通路(はしり)

– 光と風を取り込む1階の苔庭と水庭

– 水庭の杉皮の塀

– 台所、流しの研ぎ出し仕上げ技法

– 旧式な台所とその収納

– 数寄屋造りの障子

– 引き戸仕様の窓、扉



– 高性能な外断熱

– 気密構造

– 熱交換換気システム

– コンクリートの蓄熱性の利用

– 断熱ペアガラスサッシ