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The 3R House

The 3R House


3R ハウス

The acronymic project title refers to the Resurrected Run-down Row (3R) House.

A full renovation of a run-down 90+ year old wood-framed row house (Machiya) on a narrow private pedestrian alleyway (roji) just a short walk from Takano river in Kyoto, Japan.

Japan is known for its “scrap and build” practice, yet pre-WWII houses on roji such as this one are likely to be just left out since the building code prohibits new building construction on sites on roji.

Typically once the resident vacates a roji machiya, it is likely to remain unoccupied, eventually falling into disrepair. Often lacking a bath, a roji machiya is not a comfortable housing option by today’s standards. Its relatively low property value also discourages the owner from renovation.

Such was the case with this project. The existing house had severe structural issues caused by many years of neglect. In response to the client’s request for a fresh comfortable rental home, Yamada Architecture designed a complete renovation that is akin to building a new modern house nearly from the ground up inside the existing machiya’s exterior shell.

As an essential part of machiya architecture, tsuboniwa, the small courtyard garden was revived and its experience was maximized by a new open floor plan that makes the tsuboniwa viewable from throughout the downstairs.

The overall design centers around creation of airy space for “life with the garden & the sky.” The double-height dining space allows natural light from the upstairs windows to permeate the downstairs. It also makes the garden visible from the upstairs hallway. The bathroom is naturally lit by its transom window and clerestory windows.

On the upstairs, the new vault ceiling creates airy open plan feel. The east-facing gable window provides ample daylight as well as a framed view of the sky. Airiness of all spaces is heightened by the simple finish palette that let the light bounce.

While nearly everything in the interior space is new, the original crooked log roof framing and several old downstairs beams give the space a sense of history. 

The arched corners of the wall openings were designed to accommodate seismic dampers. The whole house structure except the old exterior shell stands on the new slab-on-grade foundation. The new dual-glazed windows and thermal insulation make the interior space as comfortable as a contemporary house. 

The facade was renovated in line with the original 90+ year old design that features wooden lattice fenestrations, specifically, the large protruding window and sliding entrance door to keep up the sensibility of traditional roji space that defies isolation among the neighbors.

This renovation was intended to turn the neglected roji machiya into a comfortable, neighborhood-friendly housing option that lasts for generations to come.

​(All photos by Kei Sugino, unless otherwise noted)


Project Info

Full renovation of a wood-framed row house


Kyoto, Japan


66 sqm

​2 storey

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