I wake at 05:40AM to make the short walk from Osaka city to Shin-Ōsaka Station. The streets are completely abandoned, the occasional cab swinging by as I make my way North, just shy of the Umeda Sky Building to board the train.
The train is local; it trundles down the Tokaido main line, snoozing passengers rock back-and-forth, snaking west out of the city. Having spent most of the trip in the heart of Tokyo and Osaka it is nice to get out and see the ocean. En route to Kobe, and then Akashi, I initially fly straight past my destination (spotting it from the train window) before jumping off and travelling back to finally arrive in Nishi-Maiko, a station equidistant between the two.
After scrambling up the flood defences to the sea edge, I set about filming. Strolling along the beach en-route to my destination, it becomes ever more obvious that Tadao Ando’s 4×4 House isn’t as revered by the locals as it is by the architectural journals that describe it as a key example of ‘Jutaku’. Locals stroll (and jog) past unperturbed as I stand in awe on the street by the front entrance – There it sits, peacefully, perfectly balanced, built on shore, flirting with the waves of the Inland Sea.
Ando’s 4×4 House is is 4KM away from the Awaji Island epicentre of the Great Hanshin earthquake that devastated Kobe. The devastating effects of the earthquake directly influenced the way in which Ando conceived the aesthetics of the house; the careful consideration is clear as day…
“The landscape framed within this cube is a panorama sweeping over the Inland Sea, the Awaji Island and the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge where thoughts and memories of the earthquake are embedded.”
In this respect, Ando’s 4×4 House is a watchtower, but at the same time a monument. It extends toward the sky as a symbol of remembrance but equally as a sign of moving forwards to a brighter future. With plans for an extension already under way, I feel both lucky and privileged to see the 4×4 house in near-original form. As an architect obsessed by the matrimony between structure and nature, it’s no real surprise that the extension plans have been designed to further bridge the gap between the 4×4 House and its closest neighbour, the sea…
“I am dreaming of an architecture that would soak in sea water at high tide…”