Kyodo House is not easily missed. Its street-facing profile is beautiful – clean yet rustic, international yet unmistakably Japanese. Had I arrived in the daytime, or even on a clear night, I would have found it instantly and not scared the neighbors. However when I arrived it was late and pouring with rain. I had stumbled from the airport, through Tokyo’s tentacled railways, to a nondescript alley in Setagaya in the city’s inner southwest. My garbled Japaneseish enquiries were met with cautious hostility. Wrong house. Next door. They weren’t expecting gaijin at this time of night. Despite trepidation, they pointed the way.
Hidenori, Ayumi Kondo, and their daughter Sola share their house with the occasional AirBnBer who, on this occasion, happened to be my ex-partner Carla (from Openhouse Issue No.6: Varda residency). Over goji berries (my omiyage from Hong Kong) and excellent green tea, I talked to Hide about Kyodo House. This Kohei Nawa-inspired family home is a living statement on art, environmentalism, and a return to Japan’s communitarian values.
Kyodo House has been designed to double as both a family home and a community space, predicated on this art of living. As such, the house is opened to others (a radical move away from the intense privacy of most Japanese homes) for various events, including exhibitions, dance and performance art, workshops (miso, permaculture, urban design, edible gardening, and so on), lectures, screenings, and, of course, parties. They have also accommodated artists in residence and local and international AirBnB guests.
So the hurdles facing Kyodo House as a social project are contextual, and the project’s drive to overcome those hurdles is what makes it unique. For in Tokyo it is a pioneer, a representation of new possibilities for a country only just beginning to consider the effects of its wealth boom on its land and people. The spectre of Fukushima is ever-present. The need for change feels urgent.
Kyodo House strives for a balance between private and public, profane and sacred, function and beauty. So desirable and yet so elusive. It is a beautiful house, and a beautiful idea.
Read the full story in Issue 7