Tan Yamanouchi & AWGL design a Japanese house as a “big cat tree”
Architect Tan Yamanouchi & AWGL designed A Cat Tree House as a home in Kamakura, Japan for his family and cats.
Located an hour outside of central Tokyo, the house was designed by architecture studio Tan Yamanouchi and founder of AWGL to be a comfortable space for his cats with an interior arrangement that takes cues from climbable cat trees.
“The main goal behind this project was to design a house that considered our two cats as clients,” studio founder Tan Yamanouchi told Dezeen.
He continued, “This building is dedicated to my home and studio where my wife and I live with our two cats. We thought that our cats might actually know more about how to enjoy a home than we do.” “That’s why I came up with the idea of asking my two cats, as an architect, how they enjoy their home.”
Drawing on the shape of a cat tree, the house consists of a series of spaces that branch off from a central, winding staircase.
The staircase is illuminated by a skylight and is designed according to the dimensions of the Yamanouchi cats.
“The heights were designed based on the body measurements of our cats, resulting in 23 different floor levels,” Yamanouchi explained.
“So the entire house is divided into thin lines, where our feline clients spend all day traveling.”
A jagged stainless steel railing designed to mimic a mountain landscape runs along the edge of the staircase, framing the views into the ground floor space below.
“The design of the handrails applied in the lobby to prevent falls is inspired by the mountain views of Kamakura,” Yamanouchi said.
The front door opens into a small entrance space, with the rest of the ground floor of the house divided into different levels at different heights.
An informal seating area occupies the lower level of the ground floor. The kitchen, outfitted with a concrete island and wall of wood-framed cabinets, has been raised one step, while the cozy dining area has been raised another level.
Above the kitchen, the wooden structure of the staircase is expressed, which the studio hopes will add a unique touch to the space as well as a nod to the house’s all-wood structure.
“The stair structure is a cantilevered support inspired by tamasudari, a screen made of loosely woven bamboo sticks for traditional Japanese street performance, which performers twist, fold and stretch to form different shapes,” Yamanouchi said.
“From the perspective of cultural sustainability, we aimed for an integrated design that combines traditional Japanese structural methods with progressive architectural structural engineering.”
An additional series of steps beyond the main staircase lead to a home studio and sunken work space.
Between the main levels of the house, a series of tall bookshelves follow the winding path of the staircase across two walls, leading to the two bedrooms upstairs.
“For cats, stairs act as a comfortable bed, while for us humans, they become a bookcase with suitable height variations for sitting anywhere,” Yamanouchi said.
Outside, the house is clad in dark panels, has an angular, blocky form influenced by the mountains in Kamakura and consists of two intersecting volumes topped by hipped roofs.
The house is surrounded by a two-level garden planted with eighty species of plants, bordered by a concrete wall.
“I designed the shape of this building inspired by the mountain views of Kamakura,” Yamanouchi said.
He continued: “The site on which this building was built has strict legal restrictions. Only gabled roofs are permitted on this land. Therefore, I designed this architectural shape that intertwines two roofs on one side.”
“The shape of this house consists of two L-shaped volumes, each with a roof pitched at different angles. By interlocking the two volumes, we designed a basic form that simplifies the construction and blends into the Kamakura mountains but avoids being a house we’ve all seen before.”
Other cat-influenced architectural projects recently featured on Dezeen include a pet hotel in Portugal and a set of five apartments in London featuring 27,000 hidden cat faces.
Photography by Lamberto Rubino.